- In his State of the Union address, President Obama heeded voters’ call and offered a balanced approach to spending, economic growth and job creation.
- While it makes sense to cut wasteful and unnecessary programs, we must invest in what moves our country forward, spurs economic growth and strengthens the middle-class. The FAA Reauthorization Act will do just that.
- The airline industry accounts for nearly 11 million American jobs and $1.2 trillion in annual economic activity, and this bill gives it the resources it needs to remain strong and competitive.
- The FAA bill is estimated to create and protect 280,000 jobs through infrastructure investments alone, and thousands more due to reductions in flight delays.
- This bill will protect consumers by improving air travel safety, ensuring access to rural communities and reducing costly, frustrating delays by over 20 percent.
Since the long-term FAA authorization expired at the end of Fiscal Year 2007, Congress has passed 17 short-term extensions of FAA programs. The current authorization expires March 31, 2011. FAA needs a long-term reauthorization to provide certainty, safety and jobs for both the industry and air passengers. [CRS, 1/13/11]
The current bill mirrors the FAA authorization bill that passed the Senate 93-0 in March 2010 (Senate Vote #61). The House passed its own FAA authorization bill and negotiations did not produce a conference report.
Past disagreements around the long-term authorization have included: raising the Passenger Facility Charges that airports can add to ticket prices; changing labor laws for FedEx to place workers under the same labor laws as UPS; and potentially expanding long-distance flights at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. None of these provisions are in S. 223.
To find your Senator’s recent votes on the FAA, click here. Scroll down to Key Vote Search Reports and select FAA Reauthorization or FAA Modernization and Improvement.
The Nation’s Passenger and Air Cargo Airlines Sustain Nearly 11 Million American Jobs and Generate $1.2 Trillion in Annual Economic Activity. The nation’s passenger and cargo airlines drive nearly 11 million U.S. jobs and $1.2 trillion in annual economic activity. According to the FAA, the industry also contributes 5.2 percent of U.S. GDP equaling $732 billion a year. [Airline Transport Industry Testimony by President and CEO Jim May, 3/18/10]
The FAA Bill Will Create or Protect Hundreds of Thousands of Jobs. The bill authorizes $8.1 billion in investments to improve airport infrastructure, which could sustain or create up to 280,000 jobs. [American Association of Airport Executives, 10/28/08]
The FAA Bill Invests in Technology to Reduce Delays. According to the FAA, between January and November 2010, 20 percent of commercial flights were delayed. Weather only caused approximately half-a-percent of delays during that time. [FAA] The bill could reduce delays by over 20 percent by accelerating the FAA’s air traffic control modernization effort known as the NextGen Initiative. NextGen will convert the nation’s air traffic control from a ground-based system to one that uses GPS. Going to a GPS system will allow aircraft to move precisely into and out of airports. According to FAA data, “by 2018, NextGen will reduce total flight delays by about 21 percent while providing $22 billion in cumulative benefits to the traveling public, aircraft operators and the FAA. In the process, more than 1.4 billion gallons of fuel will be saved during this period, cutting carbon dioxide emissions by nearly 14 million tons.” [Senate Commerce Committee; FAA]
- Total Economic Cost of Air Delays in 2007 Was $32.9 Billion. According to a study by the National Center of Excellence for Aviation Operations Research (study sponsored by the FAA), the total cost of all US air transportation delays in 2007 was $32.9 billion. Of that, $16.7 billion was borne by passengers, due to time lost from delayed flights, flight cancellations, and missed connections. [NEXTOR, 10/2010]
- Travelers Avoided 41 Million Trips in One Year Due to Delays. According to a survey conducted by the U.S. Travel Association, air travelers avoided 41 million trips between May 2007 and May 2008 – or slightly more than 100,000 trips per day. That loss is estimated to have cost the U.S. economy $26.5 billion. [U.S. Travel Association]
The FAA Bill Requires Airlines to Plan for Delays and Protect Passengers While They Are on an Aircraft. These plans must include how the airlines will provide adequate food, water and access to restrooms. Passengers must also be provided an opportunity to deplane after three hours on the tarmac. Airlines must also provide passengers with timely and accurate information regarding the flight. [Senate Commerce Committee]
The FAA Bill Improves Aviation Safety. In 2010 there were 988 separate runway incursions according to the FAA. Thus far in 2011 there have been 66. [FAA] The bill will help prevent runway incursions, by requiring the FAA to provide runway incursion information to pilots and improve the process for tracking and investigating incursions. [Senate Commerce Committee]
The FAA Bill Improves Access to Rural Communities. The bill not only increases funding for the Essential Air Service Program, it provides incentives to encourage better service and reforms the Program so areas with lower passenger levels continue to be served. The bill also provides increased federal support for small airports by adjusting the government share of certain project costs to 95 percent, and allows small airports with increased operations to receive a higher federal grant share for two years as they transition to a larger airport status. [Senate Commerce Committee]
The FAA Bill is Bipartisan. In March 2010, the FAA Reauthorization bill passed the Senate 93-0. [Senate Vote #61; 3/22/10] Discussing FAA reauthorization in September 2010, Sen. John Thune, “said he hoped Congress would stop doing the short-term bills and ‘get a long-term reauthorization in place that provides some certainty and predictability for the users of aviation in this country.’” [CQ Today, 9/23/10]
STATE AND LOCAL RESOURCES
Percentage of Delays in Arrivals and Departures By Airport:
November 2010 (most recent monthly data)
Dollar Amount of Airport Improvement Program (AIP) Grants Both By State and Airport:
(Scroll down to Grant History Summaries and choose one or more years)
Current Essential Air Service Program Airports:
Airport Traffic Reports, Ranking Busiest Airports in North America and Worldwide:
SENATE COMMERCE COMMITTEE: Section-By-Section
Title I: Authorizations
Title I reauthorizes all of the FAA’s four major accounts: Operations; Research, Engineering, and Development (R,E&D); Facilities & Equipment (F&E); and the Airport Improvement Program (AIP) through fiscal year (FY) 2011. Airport program administrative expenses are also authorized in this legislation. Table 1 provides details of the exact proposed authorized amounts:
Table 1: Proposed Authorized Amounts for FAA Major Accounts
In millions of dollars.
Research, Engineering & Development
Facilities & Equipment
Airport Improvement Program
The authorizations for F&E, R,E&D, and AIP are set at levels higher than the Administration’s proposal to ensure modernization needs are met. The total amount authorized in the FAA bill for the FAA’s primary accounts is approximately $34.5 billion over two years. The budgetary protections for FAA’s authorized budget are also extended through FY 2011.
Title I also directs $500 million from the Air Traffic Control System Modernization Account to be included in the F&E budget. Funds from this modernization account can only be used to support the development and implementation of the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) programs that advance the modernization of the air traffic control system. The purpose of the modernization sub-account, which was established within the Airport and Airways Trust Fund (AATF, Trust Fund), is to ensure there is adequate funding available for NextGen programs with the first $500 million in annual AATF receipts required to be deposited in the modernization sub-account.
Other provisions included in the title require the FAA to clearly identify NextGen programs and spending in agency’s 10-year investment plan, and broaden the FAA’s grant program for undergraduate students conducting research aimed at supporting the FAA including those that impact new technologies related to aircraft and air traffic management functions.
Title II: Airport Improvements
Title II focuses on the AIP and the Passenger Facility Charge (PFC) programs, and proposes a number of new initiatives to aid airport development. It would streamline the PFC process by simplifying approval requirements for imposing or amending PFCs, while still retaining audit controls, and FAA project and expenditure oversight. Additional requirements are imposed on increasing PFCs or using the revenue for inter-modal projects. This process is based on a successful pilot program for streamlining the PFC process authorized in the last FAA Reauthorization bill passed into law – Vision 100 (P.L. 108-176).
The title does not change or increase the maximum allowable PFCs that are currently permitted under the program’s authority. To assess potential improvements to the PFC program, it requires the Secretary to establish and conduct a pilot program in which an airport may impose a PFC without regard to dollar amount limitations if that airport collects the charge directly from passengers at the airport, via the Internet, or in any other reasonable manner. The same eligibility and oversight criteria applied under the regular PFC authority would still apply to the use of the revenue in this program. The pilot program is limited to six airports, and the airport may not collect the charge through an air carrier.
Title II provides flexibility to use entitlement funds for relocation or replacement of facilities under certain circumstances, and allows airports to sell land that is no longer needed for noise compatibility purposes and use the proceeds for other AIP projects at that facility rather than putting the money back into the General Fund of the Treasury. It also provides increased federal support for small airports by adjusting the government share of certain project costs to 95 percent, and allows small airports with increased operations to receive a higher federal grant share for two years as they transition to a larger airport status.
Other provisions include:
- An expansion of eligibility for the AIP noise set-aside with a guaranteed minimum amount of funding;
- Broader authority for AIP funds to be utilized to streamline environmental reviews for airport capacity projects, and to encourage the implementation of environmentally-beneficial aircraft flight procedures;
- Technical edits to the AIP which include adding veterans from the Afghanistan/Iraq conflict to the list of veterans eligible for employment preference on AIP projects.
Title II also provides for current or former military airports to be eligible for grant funding if an airport is found to be critical to the safety of trans-oceanic air traffic, permits the FAA Administrator to provide a certain level of AIP funding for U.S. territories, and makes certain projects incurred in anticipation of severe weather or the acquisition of glycol recovery vehicles eligible for airport development funding.
In an effort to promote environmental benefits at airports, Title II establishes a pilot program that permits the FAA to carry out a limited number of environmental mitigation projects at public-use airports focused on achieving reductions in aircraft noise, airport emissions, or airport water quality impacts. It would also expand the type of research that the FAA may conduct or supervise to include support programs designed to reduce gases and particulates emitted from aircraft engines.
Title III: Air Traffic Control Modernization and FAA Reform
Title III focuses on the advancing the NextGen initiative and improving FAA management practices and oversight of the agency’s modernization efforts. When fully implemented NextGen will fundamentally transform air traffic control (ATC) from a ground-based radar system to a satellite-based system that uses Global Positioning System (GPS) navigation and surveillance, digital communications, and more accurate weather services.
The primary effort of Title III is to accelerate the planning and implementation of critical NextGen technology. To this end, it establishes clear deadlines for the adoption of existing GPS navigation technology, including Required Navigation Performance (RNP) and Area Navigation (RNAV) technology, which will allow aircraft to fly precise procedures into and out of airports, and in the “en route” environment. Title III initially requires the FAA to focus these efforts on the nation’s most congested airports, mandating 100 percent coverage at the top 35 airports by 2014. The entire National Airspace System (NAS) is required to be covered by 2018.
The title will also require the FAA to accelerate planned timelines for integrating Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) technology into the NAS. ADS-B is considered the cornerstone GPS technology of the NextGen system and will provide substantial operational, environmental, and safety benefits by increasing the situational awareness of controllers and pilots through more precise aircraft tracking. FAA will be required to mandate the use of “ADS-B Out” technology, which allows the broadcast of ADS-B transmissions from aircraft to other aircraft and air traffic controllers, in all aircraft by 2015. FAA will be required to initiate a rulemaking that mandates the use of “ADS-B In” technology, which allows aircraft to receive ADS-B data on cockpit displays, on all aircraft by 2018.
To strengthen stakeholder support for the objectives of NextGen, the FAA will be required to report to Congress with specific plans for: implementation of ADS-B ground station infrastructure; milestones for transitioning these new capabilities into the NAS and detailed schedules for air-to-air applications. In addition, the title directs the agency to identify possible incentives for equipping aircraft with ADS-B technology, and the development of performance metrics that track the annual performance of the NAS, in detail, after the identification of optimal baselines.
Title III also establishes an “Air Traffic Control Modernization Oversight Board” to provide specific oversight of FAA’s modernization activities. The Board’s responsibilities include providing advice on strategic plans for FAA modernization; approving modernization expenditures in excess of $100 million; and approving selections of the leaders for the Air Traffic Organization (ATO) and the Joint Planning and Development Office (JPDO). The Board is proposed to be composed of nine members: the FAA Administrator, a Department of Defense (DOD) representative, one member representing the public interest, one Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of an airport, one CEO of a passenger or cargo airline, one FAA labor union member representing air traffic controllers, one FAA labor union member representing maintenance providers, one member representing aircraft manufacturers, and one general aviation (GA) representative. This board would replace the FAA’s Management Advisory Committee and its air traffic control subcommittee.
Title III seeks further accountability for modernization at the FAA through the creation of the “Chief NextGen Officer” position. This individual is designated by the FAA Administrator and will be tasked with responsibility for implementation of all Administration programs associated with NextGen, and would be a tenth ex-officio member of the ATC Modernization Oversight Board.
Another step to strengthen government accountability for NextGen included in the title is a requirement that all federal agencies participating in the airspace modernization effort designate a single office to be responsible for carrying out NextGen responsibilities within their Departments. This includes the DOD, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Department of Commerce (DOC) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). This provision also seeks to improve communication and cooperation between each agency.
To address the matter of ATC facility realignment or consolidation as the airspace system is modernized, Title III would require the FAA create a specific process to complete a comprehensive study of this matter. This analysis will consider the Agency’s facility needs and how it may best move forward on realignment to help reduce capital, operating, and maintenance costs, while still ensuring the safety of the air transportation system. A task force on ATC facilities must also be created to consider the condition of such facilities nationally and make recommendations to FAA, which must develop a plan to address their concerns.
To ensure contracts cannot be “imposed” on FAA workforces in the future, Title III sets up a new process to make certain collective bargaining labor disputes at the FAA are adequately resolved. If an impasse has been reached during the collective bargaining process, the Administrator of the FAA and employees’ unions are first required to use the mediation services of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS). If mediation fails, the Administrator and the employees’ union must use the Federal Services Impasses Panel (FSIP) to resolve their issues through binding arbitration by a private arbitration board consisting of three members. Decisions of the arbitrators must be reached within 90 days of appointment and are conclusive and binding.
Title III also requires the development of a process to include representatives of federal employees in the planning of ATC modernization projects, and to take specific considerations into account if entering into agreements with non-government providers of NextGen air traffic services.
The title further directs the FAA to move forward on a number of initiatives associated with NextGen including:
- Development of a plan to accelerate the certification of NextGen technologies;
- Facilitating the integration of unmanned aircraft systems (UASs) into the NAS, including a pilot program at four test sites in the U.S. by 2012;
- Creation of a Surface Systems Program Office to evaluate and implement airport surface detection technology;
- Establishment of a pilot program that permits the FAA to work with up to five states to establish ADS-B equipage banks for making loans to help facilitate equipage of aircraft locally;
- Requiring semi-annual reports on progress the agency is making on implementing NextGen operational capabilities, and;
- Providing the FAA Administrator authority to enter into financial arrangements to support funding to incentivize the costs of aircraft equipage of NextGen technology.
In addition, there are technical changes regarding FAA management, the ability to enter into reimbursable agreements, acquisition authority, management of property, providing assistance to foreign aviation authorities, and employee benefits.
Title IV: Airline Service and Small Community Service Improvements
Title IV focuses on improving airline service and small community access to air service. Airline service provisions would require air carriers to develop contingency plans to handle situations in which departure of a flight is substantially delayed while passengers are confined to an aircraft. The plan must outline how the airline will ensure the passengers are provided: a) adequate food, potable water, and restroom facilities, and; b) timely and accurate information regarding the status of the flight. This plan must be filed with the Department of Transportation (DOT), which must make the information publicly available. Under the plan, the air carrier must provide the passengers with the option to deplane after three hours have elapsed, except if the pilot determined the flight will leave within 30 minutes after the three hour delay or if there is a safety or security concern with doing so.
The airline service provisions also mandate improved disclosure of flight information to passengers when purchasing tickets. Airlines are required to post the on-time performance of chronically delayed or cancelled flights on their website – including delays, diversions and cancellations – updated on a monthly basis. Chronically delayed or cancelled flights must also be identified by the airline when a customer is booking a ticket on a website, prior to purchase. The title further directs the DOT to expand the breadth of subjects it considers for airline consumer complaint investigations, and establish an advisory committee for aviation consumer protection to advise the Secretary in carrying out air passenger service improvements. Another section requires the DOT to complete a rulemaking requiring air carriers to provide the public with a list of passenger charges, besides airfare (i.e. baggage fees and meal fees), that may be imposed by the air carrier. The list must be updated by carriers every 90 days unless there is no increase in the amount or type of fees.
The Title includes provisions that strengthen disclosure requirements for the sellers of airline tickets to properly identify the air carrier providing the service, and notification requirements regarding the taxes and fees that may accompany an airline ticket purchased by a consumer.
Title IV provisions also propose a number of improvements to the Essential Air Service (EAS) and Small Community Air Service Development Program (SCASDP). Authorized funding for EAS is increased to $200 million annually, a $73 million increase. The SCASDP is authorized at $35 million annually through FY 2011. Other provisions aimed at improving service to EAS communities include: incorporation of financial incentives into contracts with EAS carriers to encourage better service; longer-term EAS contracts if it is determined to be in the public interest; development of a program to create incentives for large carriers to code-share on service to small communities, and; requiring large airlines to code-share on EAS flights in up to 10 communities.
Additional EAS reforms include allowing an air carrier to provide service to a desired location regardless of that location’s per passenger level if a state or local government is willing to pay the difference between the actual per passenger subsidy and the allowable dollar amount for such subsidy. It also authorizes a state or local government to submit a proposal for a preferred air carrier service if the state or local government is willing to pay the difference between the lowest bid and the preferred air carrier. The title would further require the establishment of an Office of Rural Aviation within DOT to focus on the development of longer-term EAS contracts and to review and compare air carrier applications for EAS service from different communities.
Other provisions in this title include: allowing AIP funding for converting EAS airports into a GA airport if the EAS community exits the program; increased funding for contract towers that benefit small communities, and; modifying language governing disputes between EAS communities and their air service providers.
Title V: Aviation Safety
Title V proposes measures to address various aviation safety matters. Among these are several provisions that target particular problem areas identified by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), including a requirement that FAA develop a plan to provide runway incursion information to pilots in the cockpit and initiate an improved process for tracking and investigating runway incursions and operational errors.
This title seeks to improve safety for helicopter emergency medical service operators and their patients by mandating an FAA rulemaking to require use of a standardized checklist of risk factors to determine whether a mission should be initiated, and creation of a standardized flight dispatch procedure for these operators. It requires emergency medical aircraft have a terrain awareness and warning system on board within one year after the date of enactment, and the initiation of a rulemaking to require flight data and cockpit voice recorders on board these helicopters.
Title V addresses the 2008 disclosure that domestic commercial air carriers were inconsistent in their application of Airworthiness Directives (ADs). Among the corrective actions it takes are: (1) improving the FAA’s voluntary disclosure reporting process to ensure adequate actions are being taken in response to such reports; (2) adopting procedural improvements for inspections that prohibit, for two years, FAA inspectors from leaving the agency to work for the air carrier for which they had oversight; (3) an independent review of safety issues, on an annual basis, by the DOT IG to investigate air safety concerns identified by employees and reported to the FAA; (4) creation of a national review team to conduct periodic, random reviews of the FAA’s oversight of air carriers; (5) establishment of an Aviation Safety Whistleblower Investigation Office to consider complaints and make recommendations for corrective actions, and; (6) creation of a process by which the current Air Transportation Oversight System (ATOS) database is reviewed on a monthly basis to assess trends and take appropriate corrective action.
Title V initiates a comprehensive review of the FAA’s ATC Academy and facility training efforts for the air traffic controller workforce. It requires the FAA to clarify responsibility and direction of the facility training program at the national level and establish standards to identify the number of developmental controllers that can be accommodated by each facility. For the flight attendant workforce it requires the FAA to move forward on efforts to apply OSHA requirements to crewmembers while working in the aircraft. It also requires that flight attendants working in the U.S. be proficient in English language skills.
Other provisions in the title would ensure FAA could continue to access criminal history databases to perform critical safety and security functions, and access abandoned type certificates and supplemental type certificates to improve FAA safety reviews. It further requires the FAA to issue a final rule regarding re-registration and renewal of aircraft registration to promote the accuracy of the FAA’s aircraft registry. Other provisions in this section extend the timeline for FAA to begin to issue design organization certificates and allow for the use of third party contractors in the development and implementation of performance based navigation procedures.
Title V also requires the FAA to ensure that FAA-certified repair stations outside the U.S. performing work on U.S. commercial air carriers will be required to have drug and alcohol testing programs in place that are acceptable to the FAA and the laws of the country in which the station is located. It also mandates each foreign repair station have a minimum of two annual inspections from FAA inspectors unless there is a bilateral aviation safety agreement in place that allows for comparable inspection by local authorities. Similarly, Title V also directs the FAA to issue regulations that limit the ability of a non-certificated maintenance provider to be able to work on the aircraft of Part 121 air carriers to several limited exceptions.
Title VI: Aviation Research
Title VI is focused on improving the research activities of the FAA and promoting environmental benefits for the aviation industry. It proposes several new research efforts:
- Evaluation of proposals to address wake turbulence effects, volcanic ash avoidance and severe weather research (including de-icing);
- Establishment of a Center of Excellence to study the use of clean coal technology for aircraft, and;
- Creation of the “Advisory Committee on the Future of Aeronautics” to examine the best governmental and organizational structures for aeronautics research and development.
The title also extends a program to authorize grants to nonprofit research foundations to improve the construction and durability of runway pavements, and reauthorizes funding for an Applied Research and Training Center of Excellence.
Other programs in Title VI seek to reduce the impact of aviation on the environment including:
- A permanent authorization is provided for the Airport Cooperative Research pilot program, which conducts environmental and other research;
- Requiring the FAA to consider and issue guidelines for the construction of wind farms in the proximity of critical FAA facilities;
- Creation of a program to reduce harmful emissions from airport power sources and increase energy efficiency, and;
- Establishment of a pilot program to promote zero emissions from airport vehicles.
Another aviation research program is centered on incorporating UASs into the NAS. It permits the FAA to conduct developmental research on UASs and directs the agency to assess UAS capabilities.
The title also authorizes funding for two important environmental initiatives currently underway at the agency; the Continuous, Low Energy, Emissions and Noise (CLEEN) program and the Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuel Initiative (CAAFI). The CLEEN program will focus on expediting the integration of previously conceived noise, emission, and fuel burn reduction technologies into current and future aircraft. The CAAFI program focuses on developing alternative fuels, especially renewable fuels, that can be used in existing aircraft engines.
Title VII: Miscellaneous
Title VII includes the following provisions:
- An extension of the war risk insurance program.
- A human intervention management study for flight crews.
- Staffing, training and net worth adjustment considerations for the airport concessions disadvantaged business enterprise initiative.
- A requirement for FAA to update its calculation of over-flight fees.
- Requirements to study the training of FAA’s technical specialists and development of a staffing model for its inspector workforce.
- A permanent extension of the competitive access report program for airports.
- Modifications to requirements for air tour overflights of national parks.
- A study of front line manager staffing at air traffic control facilities.
- A phase out of Stage I and II aircraft in the continental United States.
- A prohibition on the FAA taking action to challenge aircraft weight restrictions imposed locally at New Jersey’s Teterboro Airport.
- A pilot program for the redevelopment of airport properties.
- Adjustments to permit for the air transportation of certain musical instruments.
- Adding a plan for recycling to the definition of airport planning requirements.
- Studies of air ambulance services; aeronautical mobile telemetry; Liberty Airport ATC staffing; air-rail codesharing practices, and; aviation fuel prices.
- Development of a plan to fly scientific instruments on commercial flights.
- A repeal of limitations on certain airport authorities.
- Modifications to requirements for volunteer pilots operating charitable medical flights, certain land conveyances, and transporting oxidizing gases.
- Miscellaneous program extensions and technical corrections.
Revenue Provisions (NOTE: The Senate Finance Committee will markup their sections of the FAA bill on Thursday, Feb 3rd)
The legislation will include a finance committee title that extends the life of the airport and airway trust fund by making changes to the aviation tax and fee structure. First the general aviation jet fuel tax is increased to 35.9 cents per gallon. The bill also includes a new surcharge on aviation jet fuel used by fractional ownership aircraft of 14.1 cents per gallon. Fractionally owned aircraft will also be subject to the general aviation jet fuel tax of 35.9 cents per gallon rather than the current 4.3 cents per gallon commercial jet fuel tax. The bill also includes an oversight fee review process. [Part of CRS Report R40410 was used for this summary]