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Congress passes FAA reauthorization

Importance of GA industry recognized

AOPA and the aviation industry celebrate the long-awaited passage of the five-year FAA bill, which authorizes an increase in funding for general aviation airports, expands BasicMed, modernizes FAA systems, and much more.

On May 11, dozens of general aviation aircraft flew over our nation’s capital to tell the story of GA. Congress soon thereafter passed one of the most comprehensive and GA-forward FAA authorizations ever achieved. Photo by Chris Rose.

This 1,000-page bill, known as the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2024, is a comprehensive piece of legislation that authorizes programs and policies administered by the FAA through 2028—impacting every sector of aviation.

The House passed its version of the FAA reauthorization bill last July with a vote of 351-69 while the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation approved its version of the bill in February. The two chambers had been negotiating over the two versions of the legislation and recently reached an agreement on a bipartisan, bicameral FAA reauthorization bill.

Last year, Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.) announced intentions to include a GA title in this year’s FAA bill. As an active pilot and chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Graves understands the value of the GA industry and the attention it needs to protect the freedom to fly.

“One of my highest priorities in developing and passing the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2024 was ensuring that the bill included the first-ever title in an FAA reauthorization dedicated to general aviation, and I want to thank the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association for their extensive work in helping to make the GA title as strong as it is,” said Graves. “GA is the foundation of our civil aviation system and we need to make sure that remains true. Working closely with AOPA, we secured provisions in this bill to protect and expand pilot privileges, make robust investments in our GA airports, and encourage more young people to pursue careers in aviation, including by removing barriers and improving career pathways for high school students.”

This FAA reauthorization bill is both historic and transformative for the GA industry, as the GA title gives undivided attention to programs and policies that directly impact the unique needs of GA aircraft owners and pilots.

On May 15, the full House overwhelmingly passed the bipartisan, bicameral FAA bill in a 387-26 vote after the full Senate passed the FAA bill in an 88-4 vote on May 9. President Joe Biden is expected to sign the bill into law by the end of the week.

Throughout the development of this comprehensive bill, congressional authors have sought insight from experts in every corner of aviation, including AOPA. In March 2023, AOPA President Mark Baker testified before a congressional panel addressing the FAA reauthorization bill. Baker spoke about the need for a safe and smart transition to an unleaded fleetwide fuel by 2030, the FAA’s designated pilot examiner shortage, funding for small airports, and aviation workforce development to get young people interested in aviation.

“Many months of hard work and bipartisan collaboration has resulted in legislation that serves general aviation in a way like never before,” said Baker. “AOPA members and the GA community will reap the benefits of this reauthorization for years to come. I thank the leaders in both chambers and on both sides of the aisle for coming together around something so groundbreaking and central to our freedom to fly.”

The following items are some of the provisions AOPA worked directly with lawmakers to include, and which will have a profound impact on the health, safety, and longevity of our industry.

GA airport funding, protection

Airport Improvement Program and GA airport funding: Authorizes $4 billion a year for the FAA’s airport projects program, an expansion from the current $3.35 billion annual spending level. Most of this increase will go toward funding for GA airports, where the $670 million funding will rise to $1 billion each year.

Transient parking ramps: Provides $34 million per year in the small airport fund for construction of itinerant and transient GA parking.

Protecting GA airports from closure: Protects U.S. civil aviation interests by rejecting the permanent closure of any grant-obligated airport unless the closure will not significantly impair the aeronautical purpose of an airport.

GAO study on FBO fee transparency: Directs a Government Accountability Office (GAO) study to be conducted on the efforts of FBOs to meet their commitments to improve the online transparency of prices and fees for all aircraft. AOPA pursued legislative language that would have required fair and reasonable FBO fees, but the provision was struck from the Senate bill due to opposition from airport representatives and the FBO industry.

New policies, expanded provisions benefit pilots, aircraft owners

Expansion of BasicMed: Increases the maximum certified takeoff weight of a covered aircraft to 12,500 pounds (up from 6,000 pounds), increases the number of allowable passengers in a covered aircraft to six (up from five), and increases the allowable number of seats in a covered aircraft to seven (up from six). This section also allows the FAA to employ the third class medical exam form a state-licensed physician uses in completing a comprehensive BasicMed examination. These changes become applicable 180 days after the bill is signed into law.

AOPA has advocated tirelessly for medical reform over the last decade and seen wide success. Since the introduction of BasicMed in 2017, more than 80,000 pilots have qualified to fly with third class medical privileges.

Aeromedical Innovation and Modernization Working Group: Establishes a working group of medical professionals and experts to review the FAA’s medical processes, policies, and procedures and to make recommendations to the FAA administrator to ensure the timely and efficient certification of airmen. It also requires the working group to assess the special issuance process to determine the appropriateness of the list of medical conditions under which an aviation medical examiner (AME) can issue a medical certificate.

Airman’s Medical Bill of Rights: Directs the FAA to develop an “Airman’s Medical Bill of Rights” that details the rights of an individual before, during, and after a medical examination conducted by an AME. It also directs the FAA to develop, and make readily available, an accompanying document to explain the standard procedures performed during a medical examination conducted by an AME.

Eliminate aircraft registration backlog: Requires the FAA to take necessary actions to reduce and maintain the aircraft registration and recordation backlog at the Civil Aviation Registry so that on average, applications are processed no later than 10 business days after receipt.

Letter of Deviation Authority (LODA): Expands the LODA exclusion statute AOPA successfully pursued in 2022 for experimental aircraft by covering limited and primary category aircraft. The LODA was an FAA-imposed requirement for flight instructors, registered owners, lessors, or lessees of an aircraft to allow, conduct, or receive flight training.

The future of GA

100LL availability: Requires airports that offered 100LL aviation gasoline for sale in 2022 to continue offering the sale of 100LL until 2030 or the date on which the FAA certifies an unleaded aviation gasoline alternative is available for purchase or use by GA aircraft operators. This provision does not cover airports in Santa Clara County in California. In Alaska, the FAA may not restrict the use and availability of 100LL avgas through December 31, 2032, or six months after FAA certifies a fuel is widely commercially available throughout the state, whichever occurs first. Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) and the Alaska delegation fought for this exception because of the state’s reliance on GA.

Modernization of Special Airworthiness Certification Rulemaking: Requires the FAA to issue a final rule for the rulemaking activity known as MOSAIC, which was introduced in July 2023. The FAA is currently reviewing more than 1,300 comments and is expected to issue a final rule in 2025.

Workforce development

Improving federal Aviation Workforce Development programs: Authorizes $20 million for each of the Section 625 aviation workforce programs—which AOPA initiated in the 2018 FAA reauthorization bill—for aircraft pilot, aviation maintenance, and aviation manufacturing workforce development programs. In 2027, the program will be redesignated as the “Cooperative Aviation Recruitment, Enrichment, and Employment Readiness” (CAREER) program and the maximum award amount limit for each of the three workforce development programs will increase to $1 million (up from $500,000).

National coordination and oversight of designated pilot examiners: Requires the FAA to establish an office to provide oversight and facilitate national coordination of DPEs. Additionally, it requires the established office to consider whether to implement the final recommendations report issued in June 2021 by the DPE Reforms Working Group. AOPA has been calling on the FAA to address the shortage of examiners, which hinders getting more qualified pilots into the skies.

Read a full summary of the GA provisions in the 2024 FAA reauthorization bill and AOPA’s efforts to secure them.

Read the full bill text.

Lillian Geil
Communications Specialist
Communications Specialist Lillian Geil is a student pilot and a graduate of Columbia University who joined AOPA in 2021.
Topics: Advocacy, Capitol Hill, FAA Funding

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