The U.S. woke up on Monday to learn that a jumpseat passenger on a Horizon Air flight operating from Everett,…
FAA Reauthorization Bill Needed by the End of Fiscal Year
The American Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is bracing for a reauthorization. Every five years, Congress passes a bill outlining new steps the agency can take to promote further growth and safety in the American aviation industry. These bills also provide the agency’s funding and dictate where the funding should go to further the American aviation industry.
Former President Donald Trump was the last leader to sign off on such a bill. In 2018, the FAA focused particularly on unmanned aircraft operations and making the skies a safer place for drones and manned aircraft to coexist. The FAA had also expanded powers and more funding for enforcement; the 2018 bill allocated to the FAA a total of $4.35 billion per year.
NOTAMs overhaul urgently needed
This time, the main focus of reauthorization talks is on modernizing the systems the FAA uses to run the national airspace system. An outage of the FAA’s Notices to Air Missions (NOTAMs) system in early January highlighted the need to systematically upgrade the technology the FAA uses to manage flights and send out critical safety information to pilots and aircraft operators alike.
Part of this reauthorization will be the approval for a new office within the FAA to test, approve, and integrate new technologies.
“I’m concerned that Federal Aviation Administration is falling short on its technological mission,” said Representative Jefferson Van Drew during a committee hearing. “This year’s FAA bill is the opportunity to develop [advanced technology] tools and set the agency up for real success.”
“Recent disruptions and groundings appear to be due in large part to reliance on outdated technology and systems, some of which are built on software that is decades old,” Rep. Brian Babin said. “It’s striking to see that the failure to use or partner with the right software or service providers could directly result in a disruptive impact on our passengers [and] the airlines themselves – shaking public confidence in our air operations.”
The reauthorization bill in 2018 allocated $3.35 billion for infrastructure investments, according to a CNN report. It has yet to be seen whether this amount will increase to allow the FAA to not only maintain but upgrade its infrastructure to enhance reliability.
One-pilot operations under consideration
Another hot topic has been at the forefront of this reauthorization. In December, it was revealed that an early draft of the bill included language that would allow the FAA to authorize airlines operating under Part 121 of the Code of Federal Regulations to fly with only one pilot aboard flights. This is a significant break from precedence, as Part 121 has required two pilots in the cockpit at any given time.
Airline lobbyists support such language, saying it will help them address a critical pilot shortage that has forced airlines to cut dozens of routes and hundreds of flights from their schedules. But pilot unions say that removing a pilot from a cockpit would be a critical safety blunder, adding that removing a pilot from the cockpit puts the flying public at risk.
“The risks associated with reduced-crew and single-pilot operations are well documented.
Most prominently, these risks stem from the increased workload for the remaining pilot, the elimination of a critical layer of monitoring and operating redundancy in the cockpit, and the inability of a single pilot to handle many emergency situations,” the Airline Pilots Association wrote in a document called ‘The Dangers of Single-Pilot Operations.’
Representatives on the U.S. House Transportation Committee emphasize why this reauthorization bill is so critical.
“Recently there have been incidents that reemphasize why getting an FAA reauthorization done on time is critical,” said House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Sam Graves, referencing runway incursions and close calls across the first few months of 2023. “Even following the safest decade in our history, our aviation system is clearly in need of urgent attention. Complacency and stagnation are equal threats to a safety culture.”
“Our role, and the FAA’s role, is to manage risk and ensure safety while reaping the incredible benefits of flight. Our global leadership in aviation begins with global leadership in aviation safety. And the only way to maintain our gold standard is to continue to enhance it. I’m going to say it again – the goal is zero fatalities,” said Aviation Subcommittee Chairman Garret Graves.
The previous reauthorization bill expires at the end of Fiscal Year 2023, so lawmakers have until September 30 to agree on a new bill and send it to President Joe Biden. Ultimately, the consensus among lawmakers is that the FAA lags behind the pace it needs to keep up with the technology and problems of the modern day.
“First and foremost, we have the president’s budget, and we obviously need to be funded at that request level,” said Dave Boulter, the acting Associate Administrator for Aviation Safety at the FAA. “The pace of technology – as we all know – has increased, but the pace of our processes has not. My number one goal in the aviation safety organization is to get that speed without ever degrading safety.”
- Breeze Receives $250,000 Incentive to Serve Ogden, Utah - November 29, 2023
- Virgin Atlantic Completes Fully-SAF Transatlantic Flight - November 28, 2023
- First Look: Alaska’s 737 MAX 8 Rolls off Production Line - November 27, 2023
Many people are aware of minimum crew rest periods. Whether it’s through a connection in the industry, an experience where…
My brother asked me a while back how airline pilots can be safe and proficient in emergencies. His idea was…