Sullivan Fights for Key Alaska Provisions in Reauthorization of FAA Bill
WASHINGTON, DC – With U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan’s support, the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee has approved the reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which incorporates several key provisions included by Senator Sullivan, as a member of that committee, that are important to Alaska.
Senator Sullivan’s provisions in the bill include increasing investment in aviation infrastructure, a Pilot’s Bill of Rights, which benefits Alaska pilots and passengers, air traffic control hiring provisions, increased benefits for the general aviation community, and an inclusion of Little Diomede into the Essential Air Service, and many other provisions that benefit Alaska.
“Living in a state of such enormous scale with numerous remote communities gives Alaskans a deep appreciation for air travel, which in many cases provides the only means of transportation for many residents,” said Senator Sullivan. “Ensuring that America and Alaska have a strong and safe aviation network — critical to driving economic growth — is one of my top priorities. Passage of this FAA bill out of the Senate Commerce Committee is an important step toward ensuring our aviation infrastructure is well maintained and improvements are not bogged down with red tape and endless permitting.”
Specifically, S. 2658 includes:
Investment in aviation infrastructure:
This bill supports investment and enhanced safety with an increase in infrastructure spending by authorizing funding for the Airport Improvement Program (AIP) at $3.75 billion, an increase of $400 million above the current annual investment.
Maintains the Air Traffic Control System:
The Senate bill maintains the current air traffic control system and does not transfer the air traffic control services to a private corporation.
Aircraft Certification Reform
Requires the FAA to establish a risk-based framework to accelerate the installation of safety equipment enhancements for small general aviation airplanes.
Streamlines the burdensome and slow certification processes by establishing an Advisory Committee to put forth improvements to ensure uniformity and reliability of the process. More importantly, it requires the FAA to better use its existing delegation authorities, and includes certain deadlines to meet milestones.
Little Diomede Essential Air Service (EAS) situation:
The Village of Little Diomede along with three other Lower 48 communities were not eligible for the first 12 years of the Essential Air Service (EAS) program due to the fact that they did not receive scheduled air service in 1978.
The need to add Diomede into the EAS program was made clear when the community recently went without any air service and crucial supplies for more than five weeks.
A provision included by Senator Sullivan adds Little Diomede into the Essential Air Service in order to provide regular air service to the community.
Pilot Bill of Rights 2:
The bill includes S.571, the Pilot’s Bill of Rights 2. This provides key reforms to the Third Class Medical Certificate process and an enhanced appeals process for pilots facing FAA enforcement.
The EPA and FAA are working to convert Avgas to be unleaded. If they are going to force an alternative there must be a seamless conversion for our planes, a low cost alternative that does not economically impact our general aviation community, and it must safe. The cold temperatures of Alaska provide a unique safety challenge to the Avgas conversion.
The language allows for testing broader fleet of general aviation aircraft engines in order streamline the conversion process and reduce the certification burden on the airplane owners and operators.
In January 2014, the FAA launched an effort to fill an expected 6,300 air traffic controller vacancies over the next five years.
As a part of that, the FAA announced that it was no longer providing applicants coming out of training facilities such as Collegiate Training Initiatives (CTI) any preference over general public applicants with no training.
The FAA also eliminated hiring first from a category of highly qualified candidates and has instead opted to hire from a larger group of applicants who all meet the minimum qualification standards. Applicants from the CTI’s have been particularly affected by this decision, despite its long history of success in preparing students for careers as air traffic controllers.
The language not only restores an interview in the hiring process but adds back preference to CTI graduates in the hiring process.
Small Airport Regulation Relief:
The bill directs the FAA to apportion AIP entitlement funds to certain airports based on its 2012 enplanement numbers. This protects Manotak and Haines airports from cuts in AIP funding.
Cold Weather Construction:
Language continues the FAA requirement to schedule its review of construction projects so that projects in cold weather states are reviewed as early as possible in order to maximize construction time during construction season.
In addition, Senator Sullivan championed the following three amendments that were adopted by the Commerce Committee:
- Project Streamlining Provision: Provision establishes performance measures and targets to provide more accountability to the permitting process for aviation infrastructure.
- Plane Registration: This amendment lengthens plane registration for non-commercial planes. The current three-year registration provides an undue burden on owners, especially in rural areas. This amendment reduces the work load on the FAA and the owners while providing long-term cost savings for the FAA due to the reduced work load.
- Privacy Protection in the ATC system: The FAA maintains a real time data base of aircraft tail numbers as they transit the country, identifying their locations as they take off and land. That information is now accessible to the public through the internet. This provision allows for private aircraft owners to request the FAA to block the registration number of the aircraft owner from any public dissemination for the noncommercial flights of the owner or operator.
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