Latest FAA Reauthorization Extension Anything But Typical

Bill Includes Aviation Safety Measures Posing Significant Burdens on Air Carriers

President Obama signed into law a bill extending federal aviation programs through September 30, 2010.  This extension is unlike the more than one dozen previous extensions because it includes several reforms intended to improve airline pilot qualifications and safety.  For a more detailed analysis of the bill, please see NATA’s legislative report.  The bill imposes regulatory requirements that create a significant burden on all pilot employers and mandates new flight, duty and rest rules. 

During U.S. House of Representatives Floor deliberations, Aviation Subcommittee Chairman Jerry Costello (D-IL) stated, “Regional airlines have been involved in the last seven fatal U.S. airline accidents, and pilot performance has been implicated in four of these accidents.”  The legislation attempts to strengthen pilot training requirements and qualifications by requiring pilots to have 1,500 hours to qualify for the FAA airline transport pilot license. But an arbitrary hour requirement does not directly correlate to a safer, more experienced pilot in commercial aircraft.  Rather, the quality of the pilot’s experience is what has greater import.  Even more troubling is the bill’s establishment of the pilot records database that forces any entity employing a pilot (including flight schools and corporate flight departments) to enter data on that pilot’s performance regularly.

As further extensions of the federal aviation programs seem inevitable, let’s revisit why delaying FAA reauthorization is problematic for our national airspace system.  Authorization bills such as the Vision 100- Century of Aviation Reauthorization Act, which expired on September 30, 2007, provide contract authority for most federal aviation programs such as the Airport Improvement Program that affords grants to support capital investments at airports.  As you know, these funds are critical to ensuring federal investment in our transportation infrastructure and maintaining the safety of the systems and programs.  The role of the appropriations process is to provide budget authority so overall federal spending for the FAA stays at a targeted level.  Lack of long-term authorizations creates uncertainty, erodes stability, and makes it difficult for states and transportation agencies to plan for current as well as future investments in our national airspace system. 

Submitted by: NATA’s Director of Legislative Affairs Kristen Moore and Director of Regulatory Affairs Jacqueline Rosser

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