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Senate Approves FAA Reauthorization, Sends Bill To House Just Before Key Deadline

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OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.


Major Federal Aviation Administration legislation was reauthorized by the Senate in an overwhelming vote on Thursday night and sent to the House just before a deadline.

To “strengthen aviation safety standards, grow the air traffic controller & safety inspector workforce, and implement safety technology on runways & in cockpits,” a U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation press release said, lawmakers passed the bipartisan FAA Reauthorization Act by a vote of 88 to 4.

“The American people expect and deserve the safest, most reliable, and most modern aerospace system in the world and this landmark bill is intended to deliver just that. Our bipartisan legislation sets clear priorities to strengthen aviation safety standards, implement new safety technology, hire more Air Traffic Controllers and safety inspectors, give passengers a guaranteed right to a refund, advance innovation, and modernize our air travel infrastructure nationwide. With tonight’s overwhelming vote, we are one step closer to getting this bill onto the president’s desk,” Democratic Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell stated.

Within the fiscal years of 2024–2028, the FAA would receive over $105 billion in funding through the legislation, and the NTSB would receive $738 million.

Aviation safety measures, such as improving aircraft certification procedures, guaranteeing FAA response to service difficulty reports, and lowering runway “close calls,” are among the ones the bill aims to address within the industry after the industry has experienced significant problems.

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“It was a privilege to lead this significant piece of bipartisan legislation. It included hundreds of key priorities from across the political spectrum, touching every state in the nation. It ultimately gives the FAA the stability it needs to fulfill its primary mission—advancing aviation safety—while also making travel more convenient and accessible. America’s aviation sector is the most innovative in the world, and this bill takes it to the next level by integrating the technologies of the future into our nation’s aerospace system,” Republican Texas Sen. and ranking member Ted Cruz stated.

“My bipartisan legislation will greatly benefit Texas’s thriving aviation industry by enabling testing for various cutting-edge technologies, improving critical infrastructure at airports across the Lone Star State, and making possible a direct flight from San Antonio International Airport to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport,” Cruz added.

“This FAA Reauthorization is a true bipartisan win for our entire economy as well as a landmark improvement for aviation safety that will benefit the flying public and consumers across this country,” said Aviation Safety Subcommittee Chair Tammy Duckworth.

“Not only does this package include so many of my priorities—including my EVAC Act to ensure emergency evacuation testing reflects realistic situations, a provision upholding strong pilot certification standards and another increasing aviation workforce development funding by six-fold each year—it also represents the most significant effort by Congress in over a decade to make flying safer, easier and more accessible for passengers with disabilities. I’m grateful for Chair Cantwell as well as Ranking Members Cruz and Moran’s partnership in getting this done, and I hope the House sends it to the President as soon as possible so our new law can begin growing the aviation workforce, modernizing the FAA, increasing consumer protections for all passengers and strengthening the nation’s global standing as the gold standard in aviation safety—including the 1,500-hour rule—for years to come,” Duckworth added.

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Boeing has been the focus of media attention for months due to a multitude of issues with its aircraft. The most well-known problem started at the start of the year when the door plug of an American Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 9 ejected soon after takeoff.

The FAA conducted an investigation of Boeing after this incident and others, and what they discovered was several problems with their safety procedures.

Furthermore, a mid-April incident at Reagan Airport (DCA) in Washington, D.C., went viral online. Air traffic controllers were heard giving the all-clear for two aircraft to take off, but they almost collided.

If the Senate had approved the measure, the House would have had to vote on it right away, but on Thursday, the lawmakers also unanimously approved a week-long extension that the House had already discussed the day before.

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The new deadline that the House has established is May 17.

“After 14 months of negotiations and several extensions, the Senate came together to pass a long-term FAA reauthorization poised to not only address the current demands of the aviation industry but also the future ones,” said Aviation Safety Subcommittee Ranking Member Jerry Moran.

“Thank you to my colleagues Sen. Cantwell, Sen. Cruz, and Sen. Duckworth for their partnership and tireless work to balance the priorities of the FAA, the aviation community, its academic partners, and the flying public. This long-term reauthorization demonstrates our commitment to aviation safety, innovation, and excellence,” Moran added.

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