Inhofe Praises Committee Advancement of FAA Reauthorization

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee and certified pilot and flight instructor with over 11,000 flight hours, today praised the Commerce Committee’s passage of S. 1405, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Act of 2017. The bill reauthorizes FAA through Sept. 30, 2021 and includes a number of Inhofe authored or supported provisions including Inhofe’s S. 755, the Fairness for Pilots Act and S. 1320,the FLIGHT Act It advanced out of committee by voice vote.

“This FAA reauthorization bill is a win for the general aviation (GA) community. It provides much needed investment in aviation infrastructure, includes strong protections for pilots and will provide long-term certainty for all aviation stakeholders,” Inhofe said. “As a pilot myself, I worked closely with GA leaders to ensure that their voices were heard in this bill. GA provisions I fought for include S. 755, the Fairness for Pilots Act, which broadens protections for GA pilots and builds on my Pilot’s Bill of Rights legislation from previous Congresses and S. 1320, the FLIGHT Act, which encourages investment in GA airports and will help meet the $303 million of infrastructure upgrades Oklahoma’s GA airports will need over the next five years.

“Additionally, there are a number of provisions in this bill that are particularly beneficial to Oklahoma. I worked to include a provision to keep FAA aircraft registry office in Oklahoma City open in the event of a government shutdown, which keeps our aviation industry operational and is vital for our national security. FAA reauthorization also includes funding for the federal Contract Tower Program—essential for the six contract towers in Oklahoma—and prevents FAA from cutting Contract Weather Observer service, which are housed at airports in Tulsa and Oklahoma City. Further, this bill cuts down on bureaucratic delays and increases the accountability between FAA and aviation community by reforming the aircraft certification process to encourage installation of newer, safer technologies like an iPad for weather updates, or a digital altimeter. I enjoyed working with Chairman Thune, Ranking Member Nelson and Sens. Blunt and Cantwell on a bill that continues to be so important to our aviation community.”  

commerce markup

Watch Inhofe Speak in Support of FAA Reauthorization at today’s markup

Industry Support for FAA Reauthorization 

“AOPA supports the Senate FAA Reauthorization legislation, which would preserve the integrity of the safest and busiest airspace in the world, allow local airports to continue to contribute to the economy in small towns across America, give pilots common sense protections, and addresses the important role airports play in emergencies,” said Mark Baker, AOPA president and CEO. “Sen. Jim Inhofe understands issues that matter to pilots and we thank him for his work on this bill…and his steadfast efforts to protect and grow the freedom to fly.” 

“This bipartisan Senate bill recognizes that general aviation is an equal partner in the nation’s air transportation system and makes the FAA more effective and ready for modernization,” said Jack J. Pelton, CEO and chairman of the Experimental Aircraft Association. “EAA also appreciates Sen. Inhofe ensuring that the legislation encompasses provisions of his Fairness for Pilots Act that builds on the common-sense reforms he previously championed,  including more flexibility in GA airport funding, aircraft construction as part of FAA-accepted hangar use, and other key items that were part of the Pilot’s Bill of Rights 2 such as protections during enforcement actions.” 

“The General Aviation Manufacturers Association applauds Sens. Inhofe, Moran and Klobuchar for introducing the Oklahoma City registry provision, and the Commerce Committee leadership for including it as an amendment in the Senate FAA reauthorization bill,” said General Aviation Manufacturers Association President and CEO Pete Bunce. “The inclusion of this provision is an important step forward for our industry and its employees, protecting them from the harmful effects of a federal government shutdown.” 

“The 253 airports with FAA contract towers are very grateful to Sen. Inhofe’s leadership to include pro-airport and pro-safety contract tower provisions in the FAA reauthorization bill approved by the Senate Commerce Committee this morning,” said Walt Strong, airport director at the University of Oklahoma’s Max Westheimer Airport in Norman, and chair of the U.S. Contract Tower Association Policy Board.  “With almost half of all military operations at civilian airports flying into contract towers and 70 percent of all contract controllers being veterans, these critical reforms will provide needed stability to one of FAA’s most cost-effective industry partnerships that enhances air traffic safety throughout our nation’s air transportation system, including six contract tower airports in Oklahoma.”

We also greatly appreciate Sen. Inhofe’s work to include the FLIGHT Act in the FAA bill, which will provide FAA the needed flexibility to fund important safety and infrastructure projects at general aviation airports across the county,” continued Strong.

"Sen. Inhofe is a tireless advocate for Oklahoma’s aviation professionals and our 5,200 team members at American’s Tulsa maintenance facility,” said David Seymour, senior vice president of integrated operations for American Airlines. “His reforms will ensure our Tulsa team members can be included in the FAA safety oversight and certification process. We are grateful for Sen. Inhofe's leadership.”

"The 2013 closure of the FAA's Oklahoma City aircraft registry office had significant, negative impact on the entire aerospace industry," said Allan McArtor, chairman of Airbus Americas. "During the shutdown, aircraft manufacturers like Airbus were unable to deliver aircraft to US customers—a scenario that had a financial impact on airlines and manufacturers and one that prevented new technology from being deployed. We want to thank Sen. Inhofe for his leadership and work to ensure that the registry office is exempted from closure in any future government shutdown or emergency."

“Once again, Oklahoma aviation is appreciative of Sen. Inhofe who always looks out for what is best for aviation,” said Victor Bird, director of the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission. “The part of the bill that provides more funding for general aviation airports is an excellent addition. These airports are used extensively by the employers of our state that provide the majority of jobs to Oklahomans and act as critical doorways to the nation’s and world’s aviation system. That same part also relieves general aviation airports of much of environmental overregulation and allows a streamlining similar to that enjoyed by commercial service airports. A welcome relief. Ensuring that the federal contract tower program continues is vital to aviation safety in our state where six of our nine towered airports are contract towers. And, last, but certainly not least, Sen. Inhofe has added language that ensures the stability of funding for the Aircraft Registry at the Monroney Aeronautical Center, and that such funding for this crucial FAA function will not be subject to the uncertainties of politics.”  

Inhofe Provisions in FAA Reauthorization 

S. 755 the Fairness for Pilots Act

  • Contains the pilot protection provisions of Inhofe’s bipartisan Pilot’s Bill of Rights 2 that were not enacted last year.
  • Enhances due process rights established in Inhofe’s first Pilot’s Bill of Rights by ensuring airman have the right to appeal an FAA decision through a new, merit-based trial in Federal Court.
  • Increases transparency for airman who are under investigation or face enforcement action by requiring FAA to articulate the specific activity under investigation and provide specific documentation relevant to its investigation
  • Directs FAA to include the effective duration of temporary flight restrictions in a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM). NOTAMs and mandates that FAA certify the accuracy of posted NOTAMs.
  • Ensures the accessibility of flight data, such as air traffic communication tapes and radar information produced by contract towers, and flight service stations and controller training programs, giving airmen the ability to use this information to defend themselves during an enforcement action proceeding.  

S. 1320, the FLIGHT Act

  • Gives general aviation airports needed flexibility to expand investments in their airport infrastructure using existing sources of funding.
  • Allows GA airports more time to accumulate FAA funding and annually make available discretionary funds for priority projects through a nationally competitive process.
  • Establishes a pilot program to encourage public-private partnerships at general aviation airports to attract private sector investment for the construction of private hangars, business hangars or investments in other facilities.
  • Designates certain airports across the country as “Disaster Relief Airports” in areas subject to natural disasters and ensure these airports have access to funding set aside for airports to use for required emergency planning, equipment, or facilities. This legislation is strongly supported by the entire general aviation community.  

S. 1432, Ensures FAA Aircraft Registry Office in Oklahoma City Remains Open During Government Shutdown

  • Requires the FAA Aircraft Registry Office located at the Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center in Oklahoma City, which houses a database containing the registries of commercial and general aviation aircraft, remains open in the event of a government shutdown.
  • The registry office is responsible for processing the registrations for newly manufactured aircraft, which must be completed before an aircraft is delivered or sold. 

Aeronautical Repair Station Reforms

  • Ensures aviation maintenance industry is represented on the Safety Oversight and Certification Committee, which is established in this legislation
  • Directs the Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee to make recommendations allowing the portability of a repairman’s certification. Under current policy, each time a repairman changes jobs he/she must reapply for certification.
  • Directs FAA to restore to an aeronautical repair station to voluntarily surrender their aviation certificate. 

Contract Tower Program

  • Maintains the contract tower cost-share program, which allows local communities to share in the costs of maintaining their airport’s contract tower. Inhofe has consistently highlighted the role that contract tower airports play in military related and national security operations and urged the committee to consider their impacts on readiness and training of military units.
  • Removes red tape requiring contract towers to submit annual cost/benefit reports to FAA. Moving forward, these reports would be tied to specific air traffic levels, ensuring communities invest resources in their control tower and their airport, instead of filling out unnecessary paperwork. Inhofe wrote a letter urging this change on May 31, 2017.  

Aircraft Certification

  • Reforms to FAA’s process for certifying GA aircraft and aviation products such as engines and avionics.
  • Ensures that FAA maintains strong engagement with industry stakeholders so FAA’s safety oversight and certification processes includes performance-based objectives and tracks performance-based metrics. This is key to eliminating bureaucratic delays and increasing accountability between FAA and the aviation community for type certificate resolution or the installation of safety enhancing technology on small general aviation aircraft.  

Contract Weather Observers

  • Prevents FAA from cutting Contract Weather Observer (CWO) service at 57 of the nation’s airports, including Will Rogers World Airport and Tulsa International Airport, through September 2021. These observers are meteorological professionals that record and interpret weather and climate data and supply that information to pilots, airlines, the National Weather Service and local news meteorologists. 

Managing Unmanned Aerial Vehicles in the Airspace

  • Directs FAA to provide State and local governments with information and resources from FAA on how they can utilize drones from public safety and better respond to security challenges that result from the increased proliferation of drones. 

Consistent Customer Flying Experience

  • Creates a standard to ensures that all airline passengers are notified of itinerary changes in a timely manner, regardless of where they purchased their ticket.