The failure of Congress to pass an FAA reauthorization bill before the latest extension expired could be a fatal blow for this legislation (for this year, anyway).
The House is proposing a one-month extension through the end of September, so theoretically lawmakers will have another shot at reaching agreement. But in September, there will be so many other urgent issues to attend to before election season, and finding floor time could be very difficult. Also, taking out the pilot safety provisions removes some of the impetus behind the bill.
But the most telling point was raised by House aviation subcommittee Chairman Jerry Costello (D-Ill.) – the problem is not with momentum, it is with the Senate (he actually said Senate Republicans) not being able to agree on its version of the bill, “and that’s not going to change in the next 30 days.”
There’s plenty of blame to go around. Too many Senators took a hard line approach to local issues and could not look at the big picture, particularly on issues like slots at Washington National Airport. And Senate leadership could not twist enough arms to force a deal when it was really needed. Finally, the White House did not weigh in heavily on this issue, and didn’t present its own legislative proposal. It was easy to get the impression that FAA reauthorization is not a priority.
So is there a chance the bill could still be passed in September? Yeah, but the prospects were not improved by today’s activity.
Here is a link to a webcast press conference held by Costello and House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman James Oberstar (D-Minn.) after they announced the extension. There is definitely an air of disappointment in their comments.
Below is the summary of the FAA extension, prepared by the House T&I Committee.
H.R. ____, THE “AIRLINE SAFETY AND FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION EXTENSION ACT OF 2010”
July 28, 2010
Federal Aviation Administration Extension
Ø The H.R. ____, the “Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act of 2010” extends aviation programs, taxes, and expenditure authority for two additional months, through the end of the fiscal year September 30, 2010, pending completion of a multi-year Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill. Without this short-term extension, the FAA’s capital, research, and airport grant programs would shut down after August 1, 2010, and several thousand FAA employees would be furloughed.
Pilot Training and Safety Provisions as Negotiated with Senate
Ø Pilot Qualifications: Requires airline pilots to hold an Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certificate (1,500 minimum flight hours required; current minimum is 250 flight hours). Requires the FAA to raise the minimum requirements for the ATP certificate. Requires pilot training for effective performance in: an air carrier operational environment; adverse weather conditions, including icing; high altitude operations; and a multi-pilot crew. Enables the FAA to consider allowing certain academic training hours that may increase the level of safety above the minimum requirements to be counted towards the 1,500-hour ATP certificate requirement.
Ø Implementation of National Transportation Safety Board Recommendations: Requires FAA to ensure that pilots are trained on stall recovery, upset recovery, and that airlines provide remedial training to pilots who need it.
Ø Pilot Records Database: Creates a Pilot Records Database to provide airlines with fast, electronic access to a pilot’s comprehensive record. Information in the database will include: pilot licenses, aircraft ratings, check rides, notices of disapproval, other flight proficiency tests, and State motor vehicle driving records.
Ø Fatigue: Flight and Duty Time Rule -- Directs the FAA to update and implement new pilot flight and duty time rules within one year to more adequately track scientific research in the field of fatigue. Fatigue Risk Management Systems -- Requires air carriers, within 90 days, to create fatigue risk management systems approved by FAA to proactively mitigate pilot fatigue. Commuting Study -- Studies the impact of pilot commuting on fatigue and provides preliminary results to the FAA to be considered as part of the flight and duty time rulemaking.
Ø ASAP and FOQA: Directs the FAA to develop and implement a plan to facilitate the establishment of an Aviation Safety Action Program (ASAP) and a Flight Operational Quality Assurance (FOQA) program by all commercial airlines and their unions. Report: Requires FAA to report on ASAP, FOQA, Line Operations Safety Audit (LOSA), and Advanced Qualification Program (AQP), which will include: an analysis of which airlines are using the programs or if they are using something comparable that achieves similar safety goals; how FAA will expand the use of the programs; and how FAA is using data from the programs as safety analysis and oversight tools for aviation safety inspectors.
Truth in Advertising: Mandates that Internet websites that sell airline tickets disclose to the purchaser on the first page of the website the air carrier that operates each segment of the flight.