The House and Senate have passed a short-term FAA funding extension that includes provisions for airline pilot training requirements. Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman James Oberstar (D-Minn.) and aviation subcommittee Chairman Jerry Costello (D-Ill.) introduced the Airline Safety and FAA Extension Act of 2010 on July 28 to continue the FAA’s aviation programs, taxes, and expenditure authority until Sept. 30. The House and Senate hope to have a long-term funding bill passed by then.
The provisions in the bill regarding pilot training pertain to the airline transport pilot certificate, requiring even first officers to obtain the ATP; the measure does not apply to the commercial pilot certificate. It also addresses pilot fatigue, requiring the FAA to implement new pilot flight and duty time rules within a year after reviewing scientific research on fatigue.
AOPA is representing general aviation on a first officer qualifications aviation rulemaking committee, which is slated to provide recommendations by the beginning of September. The association has cautioned that changes should not create a barrier to entry into aviation careers.
The pilot training provisions added to the funding extension bill have been negotiated between the House and Senate. Congress has focused on airline pilot training since the Feb. 12, 2009, Colgan Air Flight 3407 crash in Buffalo, N.Y.
“In keeping with our commitment to safety, we have decided to take these bipartisan pilot safety and training provisions and include them in the extension,” Oberstar said. “We can no longer delay enacting the strongest safety bill in decades as we work on a final agreement on the greater FAA bill.”
Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), ranking member of the aviation subcommittee on the Senate Commerce Committee, applauded the move by the House, saying, “I urge Senate Democrat leadership to do the same.”
Meanwhile, Costello reaffirmed that he is still committed to seeing a long-term FAA funding bill passed. “I want to be clear that this should in no way detract from our efforts to finish the FAA bill. I am committed to completing that process, which is now in its fourth year, as it is critical that we provide stability to the FAA and our national aviation system by passing a multi-year reauthorization,” Costello said.
“Rest assured, I will keep fighting and push for passage of this comprehensive and important bill that will lead to a better aviation system for all Americans,” said Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV, chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, in a statement about the short-term extension that would give them more time to finalize the long-term bill. The Senate is expected to act on the short-term extension in the coming days.