The House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure unanimously passed its FAA reauthorization bill (H.R.3935) on June 14 by a 63-0 vote.
The five-year bill reauthorizes aviation programs and includes a general aviation title for the first time in FAA reauthorization history with numerous priority provisions that will directly benefit GA pilots and aircraft owners.
“Our committee took action today to make our skies safer, strengthen our economy and invest in our aviation workforce,” said ranking member Rep. Rick Larsen (D-Wash.). “With this bipartisan legislation, we are securing the future of American aviation, and will make our system cleaner, greener, safer, more accessible and more innovative. I appreciate the leadership and partnership of Chair Sam Graves, Chair Garret Graves and Ranking Member Cohen. I look forward to seeing my House colleagues pass this bill next month.”
“Chairman Sam Graves, an active GA pilot, knows what GA needs. He, along with the top democrat on the Committee, Rick Larsen, a strong GA supporter, delivered for GA in this bill," said AOPA President Mark Baker. “This comprehensive legislation is very impressive and highlights the importance of general aviation across the country.”
Senators are developing their own version of the bill, which will eventually be reconciled with the House bill. Here are just a few among the many provisions that benefit GA in the House legislation, many of which AOPA worked on closely with the committee:
Safe unleaded fuel transition: Directs the secretary of transportation to ensure the transition to an unleaded fuel for the GA fleet is safe and smart by requiring airports to continue to provide 100LL until 2030 or until a fleetwide 100UL replacement fuel is widely available for the GA piston engine fleet.
BasicMed: The legislation would expand BasicMed privileges by increasing the number of allowable passengers from five to six and increasing the allowable number of seats in an aircraft from six to seven. In addition, the maximum certificated takeoff weight of the aircraft would be increased from 6,000 pounds to 12,500 pounds. Language would also require the FAA to help facilitate the recognition of BasicMed in Canada and other countries and would allow designated pilot examiners (DPEs) to administer a practical test or proficiency check while flying under BasicMed.
Improving FAA medical processes: The bill would also establish an aviation medical working group to work with the FAA in reviewing and improving medical processes and policies to ensure timely and efficient certification of pilots. The working group would also address the special issuance process and the appropriateness of expanding the list of medical conditions an aviation medical examiner can issue; evaluate certain medications and treatments approved for use by pilots; address ADHD, ADD, and mental health processes and policies; and review technologies to help red-green color blindness and their possible application for pilots.
Protecting GA airports: The bill would increase GA Airport Improvement Program funding from $670 million to $1 billion per year, allocating $170 million over five years to address the nationwide shortage of GA hangars (for those up to 5,000 square feet), and providing $34 million yearly for transient ramp construction. These funds are derived from the Aviation Trust Fund, wherein the revenues from those who use our nation’s public use air transportation system are deposited.
NCAA and workforce development: The bill would establish the National Center for the Advancement of Aerospace (NCAA). This national center would address aviation and aerospace STEM curriculum for students, facilitate aviation workforce development, and provide a critical forum for cross-disciplinary collaboration. The bill also requires the FAA to partner with NCAA to establish a high-quality, web-based resource center that provides streamlined public access to information on aviation career resources and related curricula for students and teachers, as well as leverage FAA education, research, and partnership programs.
Flight instruction and testing:Reversing an ill-advised rule from the FAA, the bill dictates that a flight instructor, registered owner, lessor, or lessee of a covered aircraft shall not be required to obtain a letter of deviation authority to allow, conduct, or receive flight training in such aircraft.
In addition, the bill requires the FAA to establish a program or office to provide national coordination and oversight of DPEs.
Airman and aircraft registration: While the aircraft registry process is improving, the bill calls for the reduction in processing time to no later than 10 business days after receipt of an application. It also dictates that an aircraft may be operated on or after the expiration date if the operator has aboard the aircraft documentation validating a submitted renewal form not yet approved or denied and is compliant for the aircraft’s airworthiness certificate. In addition, an individual would be allowed to obtain a temporary airman certificate from the administrator while waiting for a permanent one.
Unanimous approval by the House committee was the first step in the legislative process. The bill is expected to be considered on the House floor in July. The Senate Commerce Committee is working on its own FAA reauthorization bill that will be considered on July 15.