US Sentate Committee on Commerce, Science, & Transportation

  • Increases FAA safety inspectors, air traffic controllers, FAA oversight of foreign repair stations
  • Requires FAA safety technology deployment to prevent near-misses, 25-hour cockpit voice recorders, investigations of service difficulty reports
  • Sets refund standards for non-refundable tickets, protects vouchers for five years, prohibits fees for family seating, triples fines for airline consumer violations

The FAA Reauthorization strengthens aviation safety and the safety workforce. To address the air traffic controller shortage, the bill mandates that the FAA implement new staffing models to close the current gap of 3,000 controllers and requires the FAA to beef up staffing to close the 20 percent shortage of FAA safety inspectors responsible for certification and production oversight. The FAA will be required to raise the safety bar for foreign repair stations to meet U.S. standards and the bill requires more deployment of surface detection technology at more large- and medium-sized hub airports to prevent near-misses. Airplanes will be required to be equipped with 25-hour cockpit voice recorders so the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has critical data to aid investigation and the bill requires more robust reporting and FAA investigation of service difficulty reports. By also reauthorizing the NTSB, the legislation will increase its capacity to hire safety investigators.

The legislation strengthens consumer protections, setting the first-ever refund standards for passengers with non-refundable tickets when domestic flights are cancelled or delayed starting at three hours. Airline vouchers will be required to last at least five years so they don’t expire before customers can use them. Airlines will be prohibited from charging parents extra to be seated next to their children. Fines against airlines for aviation consumer protection violations will be tripled and a new stand-alone Office of Consumer Protection at the Department of Transportation (DOT) will give consumers a strong cop on the beat. Additionally, the bill enhances accessibility and protections for passengers with disabilities by improving seating accommodations and evacuation standards.

To grow the future of aviation, the legislation boosts funding for the Essential Air Service Program and doubles funding for Small Community Air Service program so that small community economies can connect, thrive and continue to make investments to modernize airport infrastructure. The bills also requires the FAA to create new standards for drones and electric air taxis so that the United States is leading the pack on new technology and creates a dedicated Office of Advanced Aviation Technology at DOT. The bill expands research on cutting-edge materials and composites that could make aircraft lighter and more fuel-efficient....

[Ref: Senate Commerce Committee Passes 5-Year Bipartisan Senate FAA Reauthorization Fo...]