Sen. Cruz Applauds Senate Passage of the Bipartisan FAA Reauthorization Act of 2024

May 9, 2024

Bill to Modernize and Transform Aviation System Receives Overwhelming Bipartisan Support 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Commerce Committee Ranking Member Ted Cruz (R-Texas) released the following statement following the Senate passage of the bipartisan FAA Reauthorization Act of 2024, comprehensive legislation that delivers a safer and more convenient travel experience for Texans and consumers across the nation. 

Ranking Member Ted Cruz said, “Today the Senate overwhelmingly passed a major FAA Reauthorization that will modernize and transform our country’s aviation system. It was a privilege to lead this significant piece of bipartisan legislation. It included hundreds of key priorities from across the political spectrum and touching every state in the nation. It ultimately gives the FAA the stability it needs to fulfill its primary mission—advancing aviation safety—while also making travel more convenient and accessible. America’s aviation sector is the most innovative in the world, and this bill takes it to the next level by integrating the technologies of the future into our nation’s aerospace system. 

“Our country’s aviation sector is the linchpin of our economy. The historic investments and reforms in this legislation will have a significant impact on the daily lives of people across Texas and the nation. My bipartisan legislation will greatly benefit Texas’s thriving aviation industry by enabling testing for various cutting-edge technologies, improving critical infrastructure at airports across the Lone Star State, and making possible a direct flight from San Antonio International Airport to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. I am proud to have worked with my Senate colleagues, Chairwoman Cantwell, Aviation Subcommittee Chairwoman Duckworth, and Ranking Member Moran to address the serious challenges facing the FAA and the aviation industry at large, and to advance provisions that will foster the next generation of aviation technology.”

The FAA Reauthorization bill delivers for the Lone Star State: 

Key examples of these provisions include:   

  • A historic $4 billion per year in funding for airport infrastructure projects that will boost capacity and safety at airports across Texas and the nation.    
  • Five additional exemptions to statutory “perimeter rule,” allowing new round-trip flights to and from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) from locations previously excluded from direct flights. This will provide the ability for a direct flight from San Antonio to DCA, delivering a more convenient travel experience for members of the military traveling from Joint Base San Antonio, business travelers, and tourists.   
  • Directing the FAA to hire the maximum number of air traffic controllers. Terminal Radar Approach Control Facilities (TRACON) for both the Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston areas have been understaffed in recent years, contributing to delayed flights and tower closures.    
  • Creating a Center for Advanced Aviation Technologies for aviation technologies like electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft such as air taxis. This center would test these technologies and oversee the development and related activities of testing corridors and other flight demonstration zones. Importantly, the Center would also work to facilitate partnerships between industry, academia, and related government agencies to further unleash innovative aviation?technologies.  
  • An adjustment to the bill’s discretionary airport improvement program funding structures that would boost McKinney National Airport’s efforts to become the third primary commercial airport in the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area. While the terminal expansion will be primarily financed at the local level, the bill expands McKinney National’s eligibility for up to $20 million in federal funding.    
  • Reforms aimed at better integrating commercial space activities into the national airspace system to assist launch providers in navigating complicated airspace, a boost for Texas’ thriving commercial space industry.    
  • Provisions that could benefit Texas universities seeking to develop aviation-related curriculum and workforce development programs such as Texas Women’s University and Angelo State University.    
  • Reforms to FAA’s State Block Grant program to level the playing field – putting Texas on par with non-Block Grant states.   
  • Funding that will improve the operational capabilities for the FAA’s UAS test range managed by Texas A&M and located in Corpus Christi, Texas.   
  • A measure addressing the recent devastating wildfires in Texas by directing the FAA to develop a plan to better integrate the use of unmanned aircraft systems to help fight wildfires.   
  • A provision that will streamline approvals to allow for more drone operations for offshore oil and gas facilities in international waters.   
  • New guidance directing the FAA to establish a process to enable test and demonstration flights for hypersonic and supersonic aircraft making it possible that a test corridor could be established in Texas.     
  • Requirements for the FAA to install Terminal Flight Data Manager (TFDM), an air traffic control technology that will help address the congestion on the airport surface due to the increase in commercial air traffic nationwide, improve ATC controller awareness and efficiency, and eliminate paper flight strips, at the top 89 airports within four years. Texas airports set to receive the TFDM technology include IAH, AUS, HOU, DFW, DAL, SAT. The FAA Reauthorization Act increased the number of installations from 49 to 89, adding Corpus Christi and Midland airports.   

Additional provisions include:  

  • Requires cockpit voice recorders on commercial aircraft to record for 25 hours, allowing the FAA and National Transportation Safety Board to better investigate aircraft incidents and prevent future ones. The FAA will also install new surface surveillance equipment at certain airports to reduce the risk of near-misses.  
  • Codifying the recommended best practices on aircraft manufacturing from an independent expert panel to address quality issues currently roiling commercial aviation. These best practices include issuing a public notice if a manufacturer requests an exemption from certification rules and revising the model for aviation safety inspectors.
  • Safety improvements for ramp workers around plane engines.
  • Require airlines to seat families together.
  • Creates a pilot program for entities that train veterans for civil aviation careers. 
  • Makes it easier to accept drone delivery of essential medicines. 
  • Directs the FAA to complete the Beyond the Visual Line of Site rulemaking, which will expand drone delivery and other drone operations throughout Texas. 
  • Thorough review of medical and mental health protocols for pilots.