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Congress Passes FAA Extension Bill

With only two days before the FAA’s authorization was set to expire on September 30th, Congress managed to approve a six-month FAA extension bill, avoiding a partial shutdown of the agency.

The first attempt to pass a six-month extension bill failed in the House on a 171-245 vote earlier in the week. The bill originally included flood insurance provisions and extensions of certain health and Medicare programs that Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA.) called “completely unrelated and inadequate items”.

The bill ultimately passed by voice vote in a special session after the Senate stripped out the controversial flood insurance provisions and the House included hurricane relief assistance. The bill will keep the agency operating for another six months as Congress debates whether to privatize the country’s air traffic control system.

NASAO was pleased that Congress acted in time to prevent a partial shutdown of the FAA and is hopeful that a long-term Reauthorization bill, without air traffic control (ATC) privatization, will be passed in the near future. Operating under multiple short-term extensions impedes progress on much-needed airport construction projects and air traffic control improvements.

The House FAA Reauthorization bill, which includes ATC privatization, was originally intended to receive a vote in July before lawmakers adjourned for a month-long recess but was pulled from the calendar after it became clear that there was insufficient support to pass.

The bill was again pulled from the agenda in early September in place of other time-sensitive legislation. House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) maintains that the vote count is close and has reiterated his optimism of its passage.

The Senate bill does not include ATC privatization but does include a controversial provision that modifies First Officer Qualification (FOQ) rule to allow additional avenues for pilots in training to meet the flight hour requirements. NASAO supports this provision and hopes to see it included in the next long-term FAA Reauthorization bill to become law.

The fact that both long-term FAA Reauthorization bills include different provisions that are equally controversial does not increase the likelihood that a multi-year authorization bill will get passed in both Chambers in the immediate future. Neither Chairman appears willing to abandon the most divisive provisions in their respective bills. Without another extension, the FAA’s authorization will expire on March 31, 2017.

Categories: News
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