WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) – member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation; member of the Aviation Operations, Safety and Security Subcommittee; as well as Co-Chair of the Senate Aerospace Caucus – today released a statement following the Senate’s passage of S. 2658, the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act of 2016 (FAARA), by a 95-3 vote. This legislation reauthorizes the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) through Fiscal Year 2017. Sen. Moran spoke on the Senate floor on April 6, 2016, about Kansas’ aviation priorities and to urge consideration of this bill.
“The passage of this bill represents a significant accomplishment at a time when bipartisan successes are often elusive,” Sen. Moran said. “FAA Reauthorization strengthens the aviation industry for manufacturers, many of whom call Kansas home, while also making air travel safer and less costly for passengers. I am particularly encouraged by the inclusion of the TSA Fairness Act, support for a robust general aviation sector, and a commonsense provision to protect the Contract Weather Observers Program.”
“Passage of FAA Reauthorization is a critical matter in order to continue the multitude of programs that are essential for the operation and development of the National airspace system and its airport infrastructure,” Wichita Airport Authority Director Victor White said. “The Wichita Eisenhower National Airport greatly appreciates the efforts of Senator Moran in supporting Reauthorization and in taking the lead on another issue of great importance to us in Wichita, and that’s ensuring the continuation of the FAA’s existing Contract Weather Observer program at our airport.”
“Today’s Senate passage of the FAA Reauthorization bill helps the U.S. aerospace industry remain competitive in a global market,” Spirit AeroSystems Vice President for Corporate Communications and Administration Debbie Gann said. “We appreciate Senator Moran’s leadership on this bill that addresses certification reforms with a greater focus on systems safety. At Spirit, we take great pride in working diligently to ensure every part meets our customers’ quality requirements, and having the FAA place a greater focus on safety will further ensure air travelers everywhere get to enjoy their flights and return home safely.”
The bill includes language addressing a number of aviation priorities in Kansas:
No Privatization of Air Traffic Control
While legislation passed by the House of Representatives to reauthorize the FAA (H.R. 4441) would hand over control of our nation’s skies to a privatized corporation, S. 2658 sets aside this controversial measure to provide greater protections for the general aviation industry, small airports and rural communities going forward. On Feb. 11, 2016, Sen. Moran was the first member of the Senate to oppose the privatized air traffic control provisions in H.R. 4441.
TSA Fairness Act
Includes an amendment offered by Sen. Moran to require the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to provide federalized security screening at certain small airports. Commercial service at Salina Regional Airport (KSLN) remains in limbo absent a commitment from TSA to restore security screening, a significant potential safety hazard for Kansas air travelers.
Preserves Contract Weather Observers (CWO) Program
The CWO is an important program utilized by 57 airports across the country, including Wichita’s Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport (ICT), in which contractors assist the FAA providing critical weather information to support and ensure the safety of pilots and passengers. Sen. Moran successfully pushed for a provision in FAARA to halt FAA’s attempts to eliminate this program.
Protection of Grant Funding for Small Airports
Sen. Moran successfully pushed for the inclusion of S. 239, the Small Airport Regulation Relief Act of 2015, legislation that makes certain airports such as Hays Regional (HYS) and Liberal Mid-America (LBL) do not lose their airport improvement funding due to inconsistent commercial service through no fault of their own. Because much needs to be done to improve commercial service at small airports across the country, Sen. Moran supported FAARA language to establish a stakeholder working group to examine service problems such as pilot shortages and find solutions.
Extends the Joint Advanced Materials (JAMS) Center of Excellence
JAMS was established in 2003 as a joint award to two separate Centers of Excellence at the University of Washington and Wichita State University. Together, the universities have played a key role in the evolution and integration of aircraft materials and technologies by providing invaluable research to validate the safety and integrity of new aircraft for the general public.
Public UAS for Tribal Governments
Amends the definition of “public aircraft” to include unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) that are owned and operated by an Indian tribal government. Public UAS are issued a Certificate of Waiver of Authorization that allows public agencies, and now tribal governments, to operate particular UAS in specified areas for certain purposes.
Authorizes appropriations for the Contract Air Traffic Control Tower Cost-Share Program and increases the federal share cap on contract tower construction projects. It also revises the methodology of determining benefit-to-cost ratios for contract tower airports in order to preserve the program. FAA is required to establish procedures for Contract Tower Program participants to review and appeal determinations related to benefit-to-costs ratios. It also requires the FAA to advance pending requests for admission into the program if the FAA has not implemented a revised cost-benefit methodology for determining eligibility for the Contract Tower Program 30 days after the enactment of the legislation.
University Research and UAS
Modified provisions relating to the use of unmanned aircraft systems at institutions of higher education. Specifically, to allow students and educators at colleges and universities to operate unmanned aircraft without the specific approval of the FAA by meeting certain requirements: designating a UAS point of contact charged with reviewing and approving all education and research UAS flights, requiring an “operator in command” to ensure flight safety, and others. Sen. Moran introduced standalone legislation last month to support the operation of UAS.
Emergency Medical Kits
Requires the FAA to evaluate and revise regulations regarding onboard emergency medical equipment requirements, including the contents of the first-aid kit. This evaluation is specifically instructed to focus on appropriate medications and equipment to meet the needs of children passengers, such as an epinephrine auto-injector. Sen. Moran previously introduced standalone legislation on Feb. 12, 2016 urging the FAA update its standards for onboard medical kits.
The full text of S. 2658 can be found here.
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