Late last week, leaders of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee introduced the bipartisan Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Act of 2018 (H.R. 4), a five-year bill to reauthorize the programs of the FAA, provide long-term stability for the Nation’s aviation community, continue investment in U.S. airports, and make necessary reforms to improve American competitiveness and safety in aviation.
This bipartisan bill, sponsored by Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster, Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Ranking Member Peter DeFazio, Aviation Subcommittee Chairman, and New Jersey Congressman Frank LoBiondo, and Aviation Subcommittee Ranking Member Rick Larsen, is tentatively scheduled for debate on the House floor, next week.
“This FAA authorization is the culmination of years of hearings and listening sessions to solicit input from aviation stakeholders, commercial passengers, general aviation pilots and our colleagues,” said Chairman LoBiondo. “In the truest sense, this legislation represents bipartisan cooperation and compromise to advance the Nation's aviation interests and safety in the skies. Moving a five-year FAA bill with broad bipartisan support through the Congress and to the President’s desk is my top priority as I wind down my Chairmanship of the Subcommittee.”
The bill provides a stable source of funding for airport improvement grants (including grants for small General Aviation airports), advances air traffic control reforms, gives airports greater flexibility regarding the assessment of improvement fees, and directs the FAA to conduct noise studies (and involve local communities in those studies).
H.R. 4 also includes the bipartisan Disaster Recovery Reform Act (DRRA), legislation that received overwhelming support in the House, in December, as part of an emergency disaster aid package. The DRRA provisions of the bill are designed to help communities better prepare for, respond to, recover from, and mitigate against disasters of all kinds.
The DRRA provides broad reforms to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), in particular increasing the federal emphasis on pre-disaster planning and mitigation to reduce the potential for future loss of life and help reduce the rising costs of disasters.
In addition, this bill addresses the integration of drones into the national airspace. This includes, establishing a process to accelerate implementation of low-altitude unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) traffic management (UTM) system, expediting safe deployment of commercial UAS by creating a risk-based permitting process, and requires the DOT to study privacy implications of UAS operations.
Most importantly, H.R. 4 directs the DOT to study the potential roles of state and local governments in the regulation of low altitude UAS, including studying the financing option related to the regulation and oversight of UAS.