EAA members received good news from the Senate Commerce Committee today, as it gave quick, unanimous approval and passage of its version of the FAA reauthorization bill as Congress attempts to find a path forward to funding the FAA. The bill includes two amendments proposed by EAA and introduced by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin) and Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kansas), as well as other provisions strongly supported by EAA. The legislation was introduced last week and will now move ahead to the full Senate, probably sometime next month.
The Senate version of FAA reauthorization does not contain any language in support of ATC privatization or GA user fees. It contains several provisions that support general aviation as well, including:
- Aeromedical reform language that was included in the Pilot’s Bill of Rights 2 passed by the Senate in December
- Direction to the FAA on completing its mandated revisions to FAR Part 23 rules on aircraft certification and airworthiness standards
- FAA authority to conduct fleet-wide authorization to implement the use of a future unleaded aviation fuel under the Piston Aviation Fuels Initiative (PAFI), a program that EAA helped develop and now plays a leadership role
- Sen. Moran introduced an amendment that would guarantee that the active construction, restoration, or repair of a personal-use aircraft is a protected aeronautical activity in airport hangars under FAA grant assurances
- Sen. Johnson introduced a requirement that FAA provide ATC and safety support to aviation events without fees, taxes or other charges
- Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) introduced an amendment that extends the registration period for noncommercial general aviation aircraft to five years
“EAA put in tremendous work to make sure recreational aviation has a framework to grow and thrive in this legislation,” said Jack Pelton, EAA CEO/Chairman. “We wanted to make sure that this was a bipartisan measure that can move forward in Congress and give the FAA what it needs in the way of stable funding while supporting our freedom of flying. Our thanks to Senate Commerce Chairman John Thune (R-South Dakota), Ranking Member Bill Nelson (D-Florida), and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle who worked together to make this happen in a collaborative and bipartisan fashion.”
If passed by Congress and signed by the President, this legislation would authorize FAA funding through September 2017, while permanently implementing the other provisions of the bill. The bill is expected to go to the Senate floor for a vote in early April, immediately following the Easter recess.
The next move after Senate passage rests with the House, where an FAA reauthorization bill containing ATC privatization passed out of committee but has been shelved by House leadership. The House can either accept the Senate bill, advance its own bill and go to conference with the Senate version, or attempt to stall in hopes of advancing ATC reform later. While the matter is being considered in Congress, a short-term continuing resolution is necessary to provide the FAA with funding for the next several months.
The House has passed such a measure but it has yet to be approved by the Senate. EAA continues to watch all such legislation closely, as Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pennsylvania) continues to publicly maintain his goal to implement ATC privatization, where control of the national airspace system would move to a not-for-profit board dominated by airline interests.
“While today’s news from the Senate is very good and contains many provisions favorable to general aviation on which EAA has worked very hard, we will continue to be vigilant to ensure there are no sudden curves thrown into the straight path established toward FAA reauthorization,” Pelton said. “We will keep EAA members well informed of happenings in the nation’s capital that could affect them and their ability to fly personal aircraft.”