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Aviation Bill, Without Air Traffic Spinoff, Lands in House

Federal aviation programs would be authorized through 2023 at $3.35 billion each year in a new House FAA bill introduced April 13.

The Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill (H.R. 4) replaces H.R. 2997, which was introduced in 2017. The new bill would not spin off air traffic control from the FAA, but otherwise is nearly identical to H.R. 2997.

“I’m glad we finally had the opportunity to come together and introduce a bipartisan, long-term FAA reauthorization bill,” the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s ranking member and a sponsor of the bill Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) said in a statement.

Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) also sponsored the bill, as well as the leaders of all six subcommittees, including aviation subpanel chairman Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.) and aviation ranking member Rick Larsen (D-Wash.).

“This legislation ensures long-term investment and stability in aviation infrastructure for America’s large, small, and rural communities, and it addresses issues to help maintain the safety of our system,” Shuster said.

The House could take up the bill the week of April 23, Bloomberg Government reported this week.

Airport Investments

The bill wouldn’t lift the $4.50 cap on Passenger Facility Charges (PFCs)—per-segment ticket fees used for airport upgrades—as airport operators have long sought.

The fiscal 2018 transportation spending bill approved by Senate panel included an increase of airline passenger facility charges of up to $8.50 from $4.50. It was dropped from the omnibus spending bill passed in March. Trade group Airlines for America opposed an increase to $8.50, saying industry “is already overburdened” with taxes and fees.

The FAA bill would, however, allow more airports to impose facility fees of $4 or $4.50. Under current law, smaller airports are limited to a $3 fee, while larger airports can charge as much as $4.50 for projects that can’t be covered by the Airport Improvement Program.

Contract Towers

The bill would make several changes to the contract tower program, which allows private firms to operate air traffic control towers, and accounts for almost half of the FAA’s towers, according to the Congressional Research Service.

If tower costs exceed their benefit as calculated by the FAA, airports or local governments have the opportunity to cover as much as 20 percent of the tower’s cost to keep it open.

The bill would modify the calculation of contract towers’ cost-benefit ratios and subsequent payments by requiring the department to calculate:

  • The annual cost-benefit ratio of towers partly supported by airports or local governments.
  • A cost-benefit ratio for towers that aren’t shared with an airport or local government, when airport traffic decreases 25 percent from the previous year, or 60 percent over three years.

Potpourri

The proposal asks the FAA to clarify language that says passengers cannot be involuntarily bumped from a flight once they have boarded; airlines must offer compensation, not wait for passenger requests; and sets forth the current compensation rates listed in federal regulations as the minimum that can be given, among other clarifications.

The FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012’s (Public Law 112-95) drone provisions would be codified and also set new requirements for the systems.

The bill would extend the FAA’s drone integration pilot program at six test ranges for six years beyond the date of enactment. The program is scheduled to expire on Sept. 30, 2019. The FAA would have to encourage testing of sense-and-avoid and “beyond line of sight” systems through the program.

The post Aviation Bill, Without Air Traffic Spinoff, Lands in House appeared first on Bloomberg Government.

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