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FAA Overhaul Bill To Be Released July 1

Contains An ATC Re-Vamp That Would Include User Fees

The Transportation and Infrastructure Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives will release the long-awaited draft FAA Reauthorization Bill on July 1. The bill is expected to include provisions that would pull the air traffic control system out of federal hands and impose a "user fee" for aircraft utilizing air traffic control services.

According to a report posted on the Helicopter Association International (HAI) website, transportation leaders agreed to release the bill a week before a planned hearing and markup, scheduled for July 8 and 9, to afford lawmakers and industry stakeholders the opportunity to review the privatization plan for air traffic reform. 

Capitol Hill will be quiet for the next ten days as lawmakers head back to their districts for the July 4 congressional recess.

According to a document posted on the Aviation Subcommittee website, full committee chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) (pictured) said that the air traffic control system is based on the previous century’s technology, and federal efforts to modernize the system have been costly but ineffective. American innovation in the industry continues to be stifled by bureaucracy, and aviation funding remains subject to political uncertainty and budget battles. As a result, he said, the United States is losing its lead in aviation to our global competitors.

The reauthorization will provide comprehensive reform of the FAA and our aviation system, the document states. Air traffic control operations and modernization will be separated from the safety regulator, equipment and aircraft certification processes will be improved, and further reforms of FAA will allow the agency to perform their critical missions more effectively and efficiently. Two of the measure’s broader areas of reform address ATC and certification.

The bill will:

  • Ensure safety remains the highest priority of our aviation system – FAA will retain its safety oversight and regulatory missions, and separating ATC from FAA will actually allow the agency to increase focus on safety.
  • Establish a federally chartered, fully independent, not-for-profit corporation to operate and modernize the ATC system, free from the volatile funding uncertainty, political meddling, and bureaucratic inertia that have plagued FAA and our ATC system in years past.
  • Establish a stable, self-sustaining, fair user fee structure, insulated from the federal budget process and threats of related sequesters, furloughs, agency closures, and shutdowns. (emphasis ours)
  • Establish a board of aviation system users to govern the corporation and set priorities, with fair representation of users and the public interest, and with steps to ensure the board has no conflicts of interest and is not dominated by any one group.
  • Ensure fair treatment of current ATC employees, and enhance their involvement in modernization.
  • Sever ATC and modernization from the highly inefficient federal procurement system.
  • Prioritize avoiding any adverse effects on safety, and maintaining the day-to-day function of the ATC system and NextGen implementation during transition.
  • Result in operating efficiencies that will save taxpayers billions of dollars annually, plus prevent the waste of billions more on failed modernization efforts.

User fees have long been opposed by the aviation industry, particularly GA, and the proposal to privatize the Air Traffic Control system is also not universally popular. You can expect a great deal of input concerning this bill in the weeks ahead.

FMI: Bill Principles

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