FAA Reauthorization Passes Senate

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A bill to reauthorize the FAA (H.R. 302) was passed by the U.S. Senate by a vote of 93 to 6 on Wednesday. The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018, which made it through the House of Representatives last week, now only needs a presidential signature to become law. The legislation has earned praise from many industry groups such as the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) and National Business Aviation Association (NBAA), especially regarding the removal of an earlier proposal to privatize air traffic control.

“Our members spoke loudly and often throughout this process, and I am most pleased that the costly and controversial ATC proposal is not included in this bill,” said AOPA President Mark Baker. “We can now look forward and work to build consensus to ensure that our nation’s aviation system remains the safest and most efficient in the world.”

The bill (PDF) includes provisions that will require medical certification for commercial balloon pilots, begin a review of all regulations and policies related to designated pilot examiners and provide liability protection for volunteer pilots. As previously reported, some of the other items covered by the legislation are a requirement for the FAA to set seat pitch and width minimums on commercial airliners, further regulation of unmanned aircraft operations and additional restrictions for model aircraft. The model aircraft restrictions have caused some dispute, with organizations including the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) asking for the language regarding model aircraft to be adjusted.

H.R. 302 will authorize FAA funding and programs until 2023, making it the longest reauthorization legislation for the agency since 1982. The president is expected to sign bill before a one-week temporary funding extension expires on Oct. 7.