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NASAO Offers Complete Amendment Report on Senate FAA Bill

Last week, in a genuine display of bipartisanship, the Senate Commerce Committee passed S.1405, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Act of 2017, by voice vote. There were over 50 amendments considered in the hearing, all of which are detailed in the linked report.

Click Here For The Complete Amendment List And Vote Details

NASAO commends the committee for working together to advance a four-year Reauthorization bill sans air traffic control (ATC) privatization in favor of much needed, long overdue, bipartisan reforms including block grant expansion, Airport Improvement Program (AIP) funding increases, certification reform, and contract tower reform.

Notably, Chairman John Thune (R-SD) introduced an amendment to allow non-academic structured and disciplined training courses to count towards the 1,500-hour qualification rule. NASAO has been a strong and consistent advocate for prompting Congress to revisit this rule. We believe a more data-driven method of balancing flight safety and the need of our rural regions to access reliable and sustainable air service is attainable.

Thune Amendment #1 sparked a passionate and lengthy debate over the 1,500 hour rule. The Chairman stated that his amendment would merely establish that professional training courses could qualify as credit toward the existing 1,500 hour rule so long as the FAA determines that the instruction enhances safety more than additional unstructured flight hours. Sen. Thune explained how studies have shown that flight hours alone are not a good measure of pilot performance and that the quality of hours is more important than the quantity.

Sen. Duckworth offered a second degree amendment to Thune Amendment 1, striking the language and replacing it with an expression of the sense of Congress that the integrity of the 1,500 hour rule must be maintained. She argued that there is no replacement for experience. The Duckworth amendment failed on a 13-14 vote, and Thune Amendment 1 passed on a voice vote.

Some of the NASAO supported amendments that were accepted are listed below.

Gardner #1 amending section 1204 of the bill to allow remote towers to be eligible for inclusion in the contract tower program

Hassan #3 adding a new section to the bill to support and encourage female students and aviators to pursue a career in aviation.

Hassan-Inhofe #6 adding a new section to the bill directing the FAA to develop a strategy for outreach to state and local governments and law enforcement to respond to UAS threats.

Inhofe #6 adding construction of a helipad as a type of project considered a general aviation airport construction or improvement project subject to coordinated and expedited environmental review process.

Klobuchar #2 amending section 1403 of the bill (future aviation infrastructure and financing study) to require the study to address the needs of airports in rural areas.

Having produced a truly bipartisan bill without the inclusion of several controversial issues, the Senate Commerce Committee was able to move swiftly through the markup process. The timeline for floor consideration will depend on when the Senate completes their health care bill. Both chambers could vote on their respective bills before the end of the month. However, there will be substantial differences to resolve if the bills advance. Even with the considerable changes made to the ATC privatization proposal, it still lacks sufficient support in the Senate. It is likely that this conflict could lead to gridlock, resulting in an another short-term extension.

NASAO will continue advocate for our legislative priorities in both FAA Reauthorization bills and keep members informed on all major developments. Please contact John Shea at (703) 610-0272 or with any legislative inquiries.

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