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bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The senate has not voted
  • The house has not voted
      house Committees
      House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
      Aviation
    IntroducedJune 22nd, 2017

What is it?

This bill — known as the 21st Century AIRR Act — would reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for six years, reform FAA regulations, fund airport infrastructure, and transition the nation’s air traffic control (ATC) system from federal control to an independent not-for-profit. It would also look to ensure that general aviation users continue to have unrestricted access to airports and airspace, enact consumer oriented reforms, and establish processes for integrating drones safely into the aviation system.

Air Traffic Control Reform

This bill would establish a federally-chartered, fully independent, not-for-profit corporation to operate and modernize the nation’s air traffic control services known as the American Air Navigation Services Corporation. The not-for-profit corporation would no longer be under the FAA’s control and will receive no federal funding or financial backing. Air traffic controllers would be transferred over to the new service over a three-year period, with the Dept. of Transportation overseeing the transition.

The new ATC provider would have the following features:

  • It’d be structured like a business, with a CEO and a board of directors who are nominated by the aviation system’s stakeholders and users — such as commercial pilots, general aviation, airports, air traffic controllers, and various categories of air carriers

  • It’d be able to access capital markets, develop capital plans, and make investments to develop and deploy a modern ATC system.

  • It’d be able to work with air traffic controllers collaboratively to test, evaluate, and deliver safe and efficient technologies.

Aviation Safety

This bill would refocus the FAA on its safety mission, and its safety workforce receive enhanced training. Voluntary safety reporting programs for pilots would be strengthened, with reports automatically accepted until a committee can meet and review them. Currently those reports may go unreviewed for weeks.

The FAA would be directed to work with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and other countries on standards for improving the tracking of aircraft over oceans. It would also be required to initiate a study of aircraft data access and retrieval technologies to determine if the technologies provide improved access and retrieval of aircraft data and cockpit voice recordings in the event of an aircraft accident.

Airport Infrastructure

The Airport Infrastructure Program, which funds critical infrastructure construction at airports, would receive $3.424 billion in funding for fiscal year 2018. That funding would gradually rise year-over-year to $3.817 billion in fiscal year 2023. Restrictions on the Passenger Facility Charge would be eased to give airports more flexibility in financing airport projects, and the PFC application process would be streamlined.

The FAA would be required to study the potential health impacts of overflight noise and consider the feasibility of changing current departure procedures over noise sensitive areas.

Consumer Reforms

This bill would enact numerous consumer reforms, including:

  • Involuntary bumping of passengers who have already boarded would be prohibited.

  • The use of cell phones and mobile devices for voice communications during commercial flights would be prohibited.

  • The FAA would be directed to establish minimum seat size requirements including width, length, and pitch necessary for passenger health and safety.

  • Airlines would need to transparently show what government-imposed taxes and fees are added to the base fare of a passenger’s ticket.

  • Airlines would be required to post a prominent link on their website if there’s a widespread disruption of their computer systems detailing hotel accommodations, ground transportation, other airport arrangements, and meal vouchers for affected passengers.

  • Large and medium commercial airports would be required to provide clean, private rooms for nursing mothers in every terminal.

Drone Regulation

This bill would enact several provisions related to unmanned aircraft system (UAS or drones):.

  • An air carrier certificate and streamlined permitting process for operators of small drones would be established, as would a risk-based permitting process would be established for commercial drone operators.

  • Implementation of a low-altitude aircraft system management system would be sped up.

  • The Dept. of Transportation would be required to conduct studies on the privacy implication of drone operations, and the potential roles of state and local governments in regulating drones.

General Aviation

Restrictions on access to airspace for the general aviation (GA) community would be prohibited, and GA aircraft operators (often hobbyists and small businesses) would be exempt from paying a user fee — although they’d continue to pay to support the Airport Improvement Program. GA users would be prominently represented in the new ATC provider’s governance structure.

Impact

Air travelers & aviation enthusiasts; airlines; airports; the air traffic control system; the newly established American Air Navigation Services Corporation; the FAA; and the Dept. of Transportation.

Cost

$20.70 Billion
The CBO estimates that enacting this legislation would lead to a net increase in deficits of $20.7 billion over the 2017-2027 period.

More Information

In-Depth: Sponsoring Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA) introduced this bill to reauthorize the FAA for six years, transfer the air traffic control system from federal control to an independent not-for-profit, and create a process for safely integrating drones into the nation’s airspace:

“This bill is about giving all Americans the safe and efficient, 21st century aviation system they deserve while keeping America the leader in aviation. We have the busiest aviation system in the world, and though it’s safe, it’s also inefficient, costly, and unable to keep up with growing demand or developing technology… The 21st Century AIRR Act puts American innovation, and the traveling public first.”

There has been some resistance from both sides of the aisle to transferring control of the air traffic control system to an independent not-for-profit as this bill proposes on the grounds that it’s too radical a change, such as this critique offered by Rep. Ralph Abraham (R-LA):

“Delaying the FAA reauthorization vote until after the recess shows that many members are studying this issue and coming to the same conclusion that I have. ATC privatization is a threat to our national security. I’m glad we’re having this debate because we certainly must modernize our ATC system, but we can do that without turning our nation’s air space to a private corporation.”

This legislation passed the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on a 32-25 vote, and has the support of 21 bipartisan cosponsors — including 19 Republicans and two Democrats.


Of Note: More than 60 countries — such as Canada, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom — have ATC systems that are separate from their air safety regulator (i.e. their equivalent of the Federal Aviation Administration).


Media:

Summary by Eric Revell

(Photo Credit: narvikk / iStock)

AKA

21st Century AIRR Act

Official Title

To transfer operation of air traffic services currently provided by the Federal Aviation Administration to a separate not-for-profit corporate entity, to reauthorize programs of the Federal Aviation Administration, and for other purposes.