Reauthorization Bill Moves Out Of Committee

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The controversial FAA reauthorization bill that would privatize air traffic control services made it out of a House committee Thursday in a 32-26 vote that almost followed partisan lines but there will be much more debate and it's still not clear what's on the Senate's collective mind. Bill 4441, the Aircraft Innovation Reform and Reauthorization Act (AIRR) came out of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee relatively unscathed after 10 hours of at-times heated mark-up debate. In the end, the privatization provision, which would create a not-for-profit air traffic control corporation separate from the FAA, emerged almost unchanged. The bill would turn over control of the FAA's air traffic organization to a corporation in which five of the 11 board of directors would represent airline interests. In two days of fractious debate in a hearing and at Thursday's 10-hour mark-up session, the overriding opposition to the privatization section was the heavy airline influence. The bill is expected to get a rough ride in the full House and the Senate hasn't yet indicated whether it's going to come up with its own bill.

AOPA was first to react to the eventful day and said it will fight the amended bill because it would subject Part 135 operators in 48 states to user fees that would be central to the funding structure of the new corporation. Hawaiian and Alaskan Part 135 operators would be exempt. "User fees are an all-or-nothing proposition as far as we're concerned," Baker said. "This isn't over. We're going to keep fighting to protect every segment of general aviation in every state from user fees when this legislation goes to the full House." AOPA took the firm stand even though liberal third class medical reform provisions, identified by AOPA as its top legislative priority, survived the mark-up. The revised bill would also reverse a 2015 court decision banning aircraft owners from using the Internet to connect with prospective passengers to share flight expenses.