Delivers opening remarks at markup for FAA reauthorization bill that will nurture innovation and nascent technology, improve safety
WASHINGTON, D.C. – In his opening statement at today’s Senate Commerce Committee executive session to consider the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2023, Ranking Member Ted Cruz (R-Texas) discussed how this legislation would address many of the challenges facing the nation’s aviation system while also modernizing and transforming the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) operations to be safer and more reliable.
Here are Sen. Cruz’s remarks as prepared for delivery:
“Thank you, Chairwoman Cantwell. It has been a long road with ‘delays’ and a little bit of ‘turbulence,’ but I am glad we have reached a compromise and are marking up this bill. In recognition that it’s taken quite a while to get here, I will keep my comments brief so we can get this bill out of committee.
“The core mission of the FAA is to ensure the safety of the flying public. From jets in commercial service to general aviation aircraft for private use to the new and emerging entrants like drones, air taxis, and commercial space, the FAA’s mission is as expansive as it is critical.
“Since we began working on this bill early last year, the challenges facing the aviation industry and traveling public have been acutely clear—a strained air travel system that needs a modern air traffic system, an FAA workforce that must have the technical expertise to conduct effective oversight of manufacturers and airlines, as well as technical experts who can help in the certification of new and novel technologies.
“The FAA reauthorization bill eliminates the FAA’s office tasked with implementing NextGen, a cost-overrun modernization program of our air traffic system that has served as a tech refresh instead of a true modernization, and instead requires the FAA to actually develop an achievable plan to modernize our system. In the last year, we’ve experienced a NOTAM breakdown causing a full ground stop; near-misses, including a near-catastrophe in Austin; controller shortages; mandated flight reductions in the New York area; and of course, the plug door failure on Alaska Airlines flight 1282 last month. Each of these events highlight the importance of enacting smart reforms and bringing certainty to the FAA as the agency confronts serious challenges.
“I want to highlight just a few of the ways this bipartisan bill will help ensure the FAA can improve at its core mission of keeping the flying public safe. A key element in our bill is requiring the collection of data to help FAA identify concerning safety trends, and provide transparency and accountability to the flying public when a flight reports a service difficulty to the agency. While it is easy to throw more staff at safety concerns, it won’t help safety if FAA isn’t making sure it’s hiring the staff with the technical expertise needed by the agency.
“The bill also includes valuable bipartisan contributions from many members on this committee ranging from addressing the air traffic controller (ATC), and aviation technician shortages to expanding the length of recording time for cockpit voice recorders to 25 hours. We saw how vital it is to extend CVR length when the recording in the Alaska Airlines accident was overwritten.
“The provisions around advanced air mobility and drones can help revolutionize supply chain logistics and transportation. By safely bringing these promising technologies online, we can improve productivity growth and spur economic activity.
“As with any bill of this nature, there are provisions where additional work is still needed. I know there are concerns that some of the consumer-focused provisions, while well-intentioned, may have the opposite effect if not implemented carefully and considerately. We should give these provisions due consideration.
“Similarly, we still need to address the work of the Office of Commercial Space Transportation at FAA, which is critical for our nation’s burgeoning commercial space industry. I look forward to working on that as part of the commercial space bill we are already writing together.
“With the aviation industry facing serious challenges, this legislation charts a course to address many of them while also modernizing and transforming the FAA’s operations. I want to thank my Republican and Democrat colleagues alike for their hard work on this bill.
“I want to particularly thank the staff, including Lila Helms, Melissa Porter, Rachel Devine, Alex Simpson, and Gigi Slais on Chair Cantwell’s team and Simone Perez, Andrew Miller, Matt Swint, Hannah Hagen, Adrienne Vanek, Brad Grantz, Nicole Christus, and Duncan Rankin, from my team.
“I’d also like to thank our Committee clerks, Jeff Johnson and Stephanie Gamache who graciously bore with us throughout this process.
“Today’s action moves us much closer to a final FAA reauthorization that makes the nation’s aviation system safer and more reliable. As we continue to move the bill forward, we are committed to honoring the longstanding tradition that this vital legislation receives broad, bipartisan support, and I look forward to working with my colleagues in that effort.”