Rockefeller, Hutchison, Dorgan, Demint Introduce Bipartisan Aviation Bill

Key Focus on Increasing Safety and Modernization

July 14, 2009

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV (D-WV), Ranking Member Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), Chairman of the Aviation Operations, Safety and Security Subcommittee Byron Dorgan (D-ND), and Ranking Member of the Aviation Operations, Safety and Security Subcommittee Jim DeMint (R-SC) joined together today to introduce legislation that will reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
The bipartisan legislation will accelerate modernization of the nation’s air traffic control (ATC) system, address critical safety concerns in the national airspace system (NAS), and improve rural community access to air service. 
“This bill goes a long way toward improving safety, reducing congestion, and modernizing our aviation system so we adapt to future growth in air travel,” said Senator Rockefeller, Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.  “For over 15 years, I have been fighting to improve air travel for passengers, airports and airlines.  This bill reinforces the “one level of safety” standard across all commercial aircraft operations, updates our nation’s antiquated air traffic control system, and most importantly protects consumers, placing efficiency and modernization center stage.  We must work quickly to pass this bill and have it signed into law for the safety and future of America’s air passengers.”
“This bill represents an important commitment to modernizing our nation’s air traffic control system and improving the safety of air travel across the country,” said Senator Hutchison.  “The benefits of Next Generation air traffic control include increased efficiency and expanded capacity, along with critical safety enhancements that are long overdue.  This legislation must be a top priority for Congress, because it will provide the FAA with the resources it needs to improve America’s current air travel system and prepare for the future.”
“This FAA reauthorization bill is critical to transforming and modernizing our air traffic control system. Our current radar-based system is outdated and does not deliver the kind of service necessary to ensure the safety, security, and reliability of a modern air-transport system,” said Senator Byron Dorgan, Chairman of the Aviation Operations, Safety, and Security Subcommittee. “This bill also addresses safety, the number one issue for my subcommittee. The bill improves access to pilot records for hiring decisions, enhances the FAA’s oversight of pilot testing, training schools and safety inspections of regional carriers. It also requires the FAA to address the recommendations of the National Transportation Safety Board, all with the goal of improving the safety our skies. This is a bill that the millions of people who fly every day can be proud of.”
 “This is important legislation that rightly focuses on modernizing the air traffic control system and aviation safety, while avoiding extraneous provisions that could slow its progress in the Senate," said Senator Jim DeMint.  "I'm very pleased that the bill incorporates many necessary improvements in safety in response to the crash of Flight 3407, which will help ensure we learn from this tragedy and save lives in the future.  Hopefully the provisions dealing with pilots records, fatigue and regional airlines will protect against another accident like Flight 3407.”
Aviation Safety
Requires the FAA develop a plan to provide runway incursion information to pilots in the cockpit, and initiate improved processes for tracking and investigating operational errors. 
Mandates an independent study of the latest scientific research on pilot fatigue be applied to FAA’s required rulemaking on flight time limits and rest requirements for flight crews. 
Improves safety for helicopter emergency medical service operations by mandating that the FAA standardize dispatch procedures, and requiring the use of terrain awareness and warning systems, and flight data and cockpit voice recorders on board such helicopters.
Addresses inconsistent application of Airworthiness Directives (ADs) by: improving voluntary disclosure reporting processes to ensure adequate actions are taken in response to reports; limiting the ability of FAA inspectors to work for air carriers which they had oversight; and conducting independent reviews of safety issues identified by employees.
Requires enhanced safety oversight of foreign repair stations.
Takes steps to ensure “one level of safety” exists in commercial aircraft operations including a mandate that all carriers adopt additional safety oversight programs and by promoting cooperation among carriers to share best practices and other critical safety information.
Air Traffic Control Modernization and FAA Reform
Improves federal oversight of the NextGen initiative.
Accelerates implementation of NextGen technologies. 
Establishes clear deadlines for the adoption of existing Global Positioning System (GPS) navigation technology, including Required Navigation Performance (RNP) and Area Navigation (RNAV), by mandating 100 percent coverage at the top 35 airports by 2014, with the entire National Airspace System (NAS) required to be covered by 2018.
Directs FAA to accelerate planned timelines for integrating Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) technology into the NAS, requiring the use of “ADS-B Out” on all aircraft by 2015 and “ADS-B In” on all aircraft by 2018. 
Creates an “Air Traffic Control Modernization Oversight Board” to provide oversight of FAA’s modernization activities.
Establishes a “Chief NextGen Officer” position at FAA to be responsible for the implementation of all NextGen programs, and requires federal agencies participating in NextGen to designate a single office in their Department to be accountable for NextGen.
Requires the FAA to complete a comprehensive study of ATC facility realignment or consolidation in relation to airspace system modernization.
Establishes a new process to make sure collective bargaining labor disputes at the FAA are adequately resolved through mediation and arbitration if necessary.
Airline Service and Small Community Air Service
Requires air carriers to develop contingency plans to address situations in which the departure of a flight is substantially delayed while passengers are confined to an aircraft, and allow passengers to deplane after a three hour delay.
Mandates improved disclosure of flight information when tickets are purchased.
Proposes a number of improvements to the Essential Air Service (EAS) to allow communities greater flexibility in attracting desired air service.
Substantially increases authorized funding for EAS to $175 million annually, a $48 million increase.  Maintains support for the Small Community Air Service Development Program (SCASDP) which is authorized at $35 million annually through FY 2011. 
Airport Improvements
Streamlines the Passenger Facility Charge (PFC) process by simplifying approval requirements for imposing or amending PFCs, while still retaining audit controls, and FAA project and expenditure oversight.  The title does not change or increase the maximum allowable PFCs that are currently permitted under the program’s authority.
Provides greater flexibility for the use of various AIP entitlement funding, and establishes a number of pilot programs to consider concepts for strengthening the program.