Bipartisan FAA Reauthorization Strengthens National Security, Empowers Communities
(Washington, D.C.) – This week, both the House and Senate cleared a bipartisan agreement to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) through September 2017, and the measure is expected to be signed into law by the President today. The legislation is an extension of operational funding without increasing federal spending, and enacts long-term policy reforms to strengthen national security, improve air travel for persons with disabilities, shorten wait times, and among other things, require airlines to reimburse passengers with lost luggage.
“This legislation takes immediate steps to keep the American people safe, and delivers over a year of certainty to consumers and those invested in the industry while ensuring we have the time to iron our remaining differences,” said Rep. Woodall. “It empowers stakeholders and agencies to plan ahead, and though unfinished work remains – such as streamlining regulatory approval processes – I am pleased we locked in good policy on which there is agreement so that implementation can begin right away. Some really important aviation policy reforms that will help the American people today are in this bill, including my own language paving the way for utility providers to use drones to help restore service in extreme circumstances. In keeping with our theme in the FAST Act, this bill makes large strides in reforming how we will operate moving forward, which will have a positive impact on all Americans.”
While the highlights of the bill focus on the nationwide impact, there are several provisions in the bill that residents right here in Georgia will feel almost immediately. Section 2204 for instance, authored by Woodall, ensures electric utilities can use innovative technology, like drone technology, to speed up service restoration when lost during an outage in a safer and more timely way without being burdened by unnecessary layers of red tape. Residents everywhere will experience an immediate impact as utility companies across the country utilize this new opportunity.
Georgia Power CEO Paul Bowers welcomed the passage of the FAA Reauthorization Act and pointed specifically to the reform that targets the utility industry. He said, “Georgia Power applauds the passage of the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2016. We appreciate the hard work of members of Congress in coming together to pass a bill that assures the continued safety of the national airspace system while also recognizing the critical importance of utility restoration efforts and the promising role unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) may play in those efforts.”
Bowers added, “In particular, we sincerely thank Congressman Woodall for his resolute support and for his determined efforts to ensure that the FAA will be prepared to act quickly in approving UAS use in connection with utility restoration efforts by having entered into prior agreements with the Secretary of Energy, FEMA, and other relevant agencies. The FAA’s ability to authorize UAS use expeditiously in support of utility restoration efforts will benefit our customers.”
Woodall’s reform language was initially offered as an amendment to House legislation, but was ultimately included in the long-term reforms of the bicameral agreement. The measure is one Woodall credits to an active dialogue with stakeholders in the utility industry who are familiar with the bureaucratic difficulty of utilizing unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) to quickly restore power.
Reforms found in the legislation include, but are not limited to:
· Directing air carriers to provide a refund of paid baggage fees when items are lost or unreasonably delayed
· Streamlining processes for approval and interagency cooperation to deploy unmanned aircraft during emergencies, such as disaster responses and wildfires
· Improving the air traffic controller hiring process and ensuring the FAA can better address chronic controller shortages with experienced candidates
· Requiring the marking of certain towers to improve their visibility to low-flying aircraft and help prevent accidents
· Ensuring that pilots are sufficiently trained on manual flying skills and how to monitor cockpit automation system
· Increasing operational efficiency of airport checkpoints by providing expedited screening to more passengers, redeploying certain TSA personnel, and assessing TSA’s staffing allocation model
· Streamlining the third-class medical certification process
· Requiring training for flight attendants in recognizing and responding to potential victims of human trafficking
Congressman Woodall represents the Seventh Congressional District of Georgia, which includes the majority of Forsyth and Gwinnett counties, and currently serves as Chairman of the Rules Subcommittee on Legislative and Budget Process, as well as serving on the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, and Budget Committee.