FAA Reauthorization And Rule Changes To See Debate In March
Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said a week of Senate floor time will be scheduled in March to address aviation safety reforms and the FAA reauthorization bill. Senators have been pressured by surviving family members of victims of Flight 3407 to move the process, and its included safety reforms, along. The bill currently holds provisions that would change pilot training standards and set requirements for remedial training programs for commercial carriers. It also calls for independent study of pilot fatigue research to be considered in new flight-time and duty-time rules for pilots, and changes minimum times required to serve as first officer at a commuter. Reid delivered the commitment on the eve of the day that marks the one year anniversary of the Continental/Colgan Air Flight that crashed outside of Buffalo, killing all aboard and one on the ground. Airline groups and even FAA chief Randy Babbitt have expressed concern over some of the provisions in the bill -- especially the apparent emphasis on quantity of flight time over quality of training. The FAA's authorization bill has been surviving on short-term extensions currently set to expire on March 31. Even if the Senate passes the bill, that's not the end of the process.
The House version of the FAA reauthorization bill has already been passed, and it is considered to be more stringent than the bill the Senate has proposed. The House version includes a 1,500-hour minimum requirement for right-seaters on commuter airlines and requires that airlines identify the regional airlines flying their commuter routes. Whatever the Senate passes will have to be merged with the House bill by a House-Senate conference committee that will then vote on whatever compromises they reach.