A long-anticipated FAA reauthorization bill that calls for creating a federally chartered not-for-profit organization to manage air traffic control functions was announced during a Feb. 3 news conference led by Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
The 270-page bill called the Aviation Innovation, Reform, and Reauthorization (AIRR) Act of 2016, H.R. 4441, also includes third class medical reform, certification reform, and user fees for airlines and Part 135 charter operators, and would set priorities for the FAA for the next six years.
“There are some very good things for general aviation in this bill. I think everyone can agree that the FAA can be more efficient and effective, and this legislation creates opportunities for both third class medical reform and certification reform that have the potential to make flying safer and more affordable,” said AOPA President Mark Baker. “But there are other provisions we will firmly oppose such as user fees for any segment of GA, including business aviation. And still other elements, like the plan to separate air traffic control from the FAA, raise important questions that demand meaningful answers. Ultimately, we need to know that any FAA reauthorization legislation will protect the interests of general aviation now and into the future.”
The proposed air traffic organization would be governed by an 11-member board that includes representatives from the airlines, controllers, GA, and others. AOPA plans to carefully study the bill’s language and its potential consequences over the coming days.
Aviation groups including AOPA have been asking House transportation leaders to make sure all stakeholders have adequate time and opportunities to weigh in on the legislation, which will have a profound effect on the entire aviation community if it becomes law. Exactly how much time they’ll have remains to be seen, with lawmakers hinting at a committee markup of the bill sometime in the next few weeks.
“This is extremely complex legislation and we need to be sure we get it right and fix only the things that are actually broken. So we will be going over it with a fine-toothed comb,” said AOPA Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Jim Coon. “This bill is an important starting point and there are many more steps to go before it is finalized. AOPA is going to be actively involved in the process, representing the needs of our members at every step along the way and opposing any provisions that would harm GA.”
With FAA funding set to expire March 31, it seems unlikely that the House and Senate can reach agreement on final legislation before the deadline, increasing the chances that there will be another short-term extension of the status quo.