FAA Reauthorization Passes The House: Next Stop, The Oval Office

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The House voted today (May 15) to pass the FAA five-year reauthorization bill and sent the legislation along to President Biden for signature ahead of the Friday deadline. The House vote was 387-26, following last week’s Senate vote of 88-4. Passing the long-term funding bill ended a frustrating chain of four short-term extensions.

The bill faced much less contention in the House than it had in the Senate, where a string of unrelated controversial amendments threatened to scuttle passage. House leadership declined to schedule votes on amendments, specifically to avoid the same sort of logjam negotiations.

That said, a controversial measure adding airline slots to Washington’s Reagan National Airport was among the more prominent provisions of the bill. Members of Congress were divided for and against the measure, dependent on their homes. Those from states close to Washington, D.C., were opposed based on congestion and the fear of midair collisions. Those from states farther away were in favor of adding slots. Their opponents accused them of advocating for their own convenience.

Other important measures included agreeing to hire and train up to 3,000 new air traffic controllers, increasing the length of cockpit voice recordings to 25 hours (from two hours) and extending the time frame for airline passengers to redeem travel credits to at least five years.

From the general aviation side, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) praised passage of the long-term legislation to fund and support the FAA. GAMA President and CEO Pete Bunce said, “The final bill contains many of the important provisions that GAMA strongly advocated for throughout the process, including during our Capitol Hill Day last week, when our board members met with over 120 lawmakers while the Senate was finalizing the bill. Overall, the bill supports safety, innovation, infrastructure investment, sustainability, and the aviation workforce.”

Bunce listed some key provisions, including adding a new Assistant Administrator for Rulemaking and Regulatory Improvement, which mandates a review of the rulemaking process to reduce bureaucratic delays. The bill also strengthens workforce development grants for pilots and maintenance technicians, he said, by adding manufacturing workers to the eligibility list. Bunce also added that the bill includes: “furthering air traffic and airport operations through pilot programs for mobile delivery of air traffic clearances and electric aircraft infrastructure; fostering future improvements in certification and production oversight; expanding sustainability research programs; and following through on initiatives focused on a safe transition to unleaded avgas.”

Mark Phelps
Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.

12 COMMENTS

  1. I think anything that makes it easier for Congress-critters to get out of town is A Good Thing. They’ve got their own subway and gyms and in-house country clubs. Why not privatize DCA so that only members, lobbyists, and GS15s can use it? The hoi-polloi can take the Metro to IAD. /s

  2. I was a lobbyist for the airline industry for several years. I am not sure you have a picture of DC that isn’t a bit jaded Aviatrixx.

    There is no subway. There is 1970’s era underground train that runs from the office buildings to the Capitol that is almost a novelty at this point. They do have a gym (modest with security) but there are no country clubs in-house. The closest to a Country Club I ever saw was the Capitol Hill Club which is for Republicans to meet and eat and host events. It is just off campus and is a private invitation only club that requires an initiation fee and dues to be paid.

    Yes, they have a gym but it is a secure place to work out that I would have to approve of as security and privacy would be impossible for elected officials in a public gym.

    The life led by Reps often means living in crash pads with bunks and shared rooms. It is far from the picture I believe you were inferring.

    • Your comment is on point, I like it, as it raises a valid concern about the potential gap between legislative authorization and actual implementation.

  3. It would be interesting to follow up on the authorization next year to determine what line items were completed and what were ignored by the bureaucracy. The FAA (and perhaps other government agencies) have a history of taking the money and failing to do what the Congress/President order.

    • Consider yourself encouraged to follow up. You will not be alone in the follow up effort. Several alphabet groups will be watching, government watchdogs, and the general public. Some items will need help from industry as government relies heavily on a collaborative effort with industry. The agency also has some discretion in providing financial incentives to complete tasks on time and within budget. No doubt there will be lots of moving parts to meet the requirements of the act.

    • Your comment is spot on and raises a valid concern about the potential gap between legislative authorization and actual implementation. I appreciate your insight.

  4. Hi all,
    Great to hear more funding to hire 3000 more controllers. I surely hope
    they hire the military veterans atc first, cti students next. ots off the street hires last.
    Lets hire from the top of the barrell , from people who have already put in effort to be hired, and seriously want this job.
    My generation was after the strike. Almost all of us ex military atc. Very disiplined and dedicated work force. The FAA got a good deal, doing too much with too few for too long. Alot of us now paying the price, healthwise.

    Hoping for good hires, good training, good controllers to come out of this group.
    Sounds like direct hire to facilities if cti or military.
    Fast tracking people . Atc assement test for hiring, no more nonsense bq questionaire.
    They also need to be constant hiring, and avoid the cycles of huge retirement waves at 56.
    Im hoping for alert well rested atc’s working the peak traffic this summer.
    Im rooting for Natca, they guide you home.

    best regards,

    michael.

  5. Aren’t the distant representatives the ones who NEED convenient air travel? Seems like the near-state reps should let them have it, and be their own advocates for high speed rail or similar other options.

    It’s a shame that the FAA was unable to mandate 25-hour CVR before/without being told to do it by mom and dad. Those systems have been available and approved for years, and are already mandated by the world’s leading regulating bodies. A group that used to consider the FAA one of their members, if not their leading/founding member.

    • You are correct. Since 2021, EASA mandates 25-hour Cockpit Voice Recorders (CVRs). The FAA should adopt similar requirements and retrofit existing aircraft.

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