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Sullivan Supports FAA Reauthorization Bill


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WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK), a member of the Senate Commerce, Science, & Transportation Committee, last week joined his colleagues in advancing the reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) out of committee. The legislation, which reauthorizes the FAA through 2021, contains several key provisions secured by Senator Sullivan that are important to Alaska.

“Alaska is an aviation state, home to more than 250 communities exclusively accessed by air, and home to more pilots per capita than any other state,” said Senator Sullivan. “Among its provisions, this FAA Reauthorization better protects the rights of airline travelers, improves the efficiency of America’s air traffic control system with new technologies, and makes significant investments in aviation infrastructure. I’m glad to see members from both sides of the aisle coming together to craft a strong bill that invests in the future and makes air travel safer and more reliable than ever before.”

Some of the major provisions in the FAA Reauthorization include:

 

Investment in Aviation Infrastructure:

The bill supports investment and enhanced safety with an increase in infrastructure spending by authorizing funding for the Airport Improvement Program (AIP) at $3.35 billion in FY 2018. For Fiscal Years 2019-2021, investment would rise to $3.75 billion, a $400 million (or 12 percent) increase.

 

Maintaining the Air Traffic Control System:

The Senate bill maintains the current air traffic control system and does not transfer air traffic control services to a private corporation.

 

Aircraft Certification Reform

The bill requires the FAA to establish a risk-based framework to accelerate the installation of safety equipment enhancements for small general aviation airplanes.

The bill also streamlines the burdensome and slow certification processes by establishing an Advisory Committee to put forth improvements to ensure uniformity and reliability of the process. More importantly, it requires the FAA to better use its existing delegation authorities, and includes certain deadlines to meet milestones.

 

Small Airport Regulation Relief:

The bill directs the FAA to apportion AIP entitlement funds to certain airports based on its 2012 enplanement numbers. This protects Manotak and Haines airports from cuts in AIP funding.

 

Cold Weather Construction:

The bill continues the FAA requirement to schedule its review of construction projects so that projects in cold weather states are reviewed as early as possible in order to maximize construction time during the construction season. 

 

Infrastructure Regulatory Reform:

The bill includes an amendment, championed by Senator Sullivan, limiting the regulation of non-federally sponsored property. Airport owners are currently required to receive FAA approval to make any improvements or changes to any airport facilities, including those that are not related to airfield or aeronautical areas.

This amendment limits the FAA’s role to establishing standards, such as height limits or shielding radio signals, ensuring aircraft operations or avionics are not interfered with. As long as the airport owner or operator meets those standards, they could develop non-airfield parcels as they see fit. The amendment was supported by the Airports Council International – North America.

Provisions of importance to Alaska include:

  • An authorization of $175 million per year for the Essential Air Service Program, an increase of $25 million beyond the existing appropriation amount, in order to support small community air service.  
  • An amendment authored by Senator Sullivan to address pilots’ need to access more weather data, directing the FAA to make available weather observation data provided by the National Weather Service Modular Automated Weather Station (MAWS) through the FAA National Airspace Data Interchange Network. This amendment was supported by the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association.
  • A provision authored by Senator Sullivan adding Little Diomede into the Essential Air Service in order to provide regular air service to the community.
  • Language authored by Senator Sullivan to ensure that national requirements for weather forecasting and weather reporting are appropriate for the unique operating environment in Alaska. 
  • Language authored by Senator Sullivan to ensure rural residents are able to access replacement batteries for medical devices via safe transport by aircraft.
  • Language supporting and protecting the Federal Contract Tower Program.
  • Language directing the FAA not to discontinue the Contract Weather Observer program at any airport.

 

The legislation now heads to the full Senate for consideration.

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