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June 22, 2017

Senate FAA Reauthorization Includes Inhofe Provisions

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation committee and certified pilot with over 11,000 flight hours, today praised the introduction of S. 1405 the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Act of 2017. This legislation reauthorizes the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and includes a number of Inhofe priorities including Inhofe’s S. 755, the Fairness for Pilots Act and S. 1320,the FLIGHT Act. 

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Act of 2017 is comprehensive and will benefit all aviation stakeholders,” Inhofe said, “It sets robust investment levels for aviation infrastructure, includes strong protections for pilots and targets needed investment in general aviation (GA) airports. As a pilot myself, I personally understand the needs of the aviation community and have fought hard for their priorities throughout my time in public office. This Congress I have been able to take my involvement in aviation legislation to the next level by serving on the Senate Commerce Committee. I am proud of the strong GA provisions I have worked to include in FAA reauthorization, including the S. 755 Fairness for Pilots Act, which broadens protections for GA pilots and builds on my Pilot’s Bill of Rights legislation from previous Congresses, and the S. 1320 FLIGHT Act, which incentivizes investment in GA airports. I appreciate Chairman Thune and Ranking Member Nelson for working together and with me on this legislation. 

“GA airports play a vital role in our greater airport ecosystem: they improve efficiency of large commercial airports, are vital in emergency medical operations and law enforcement, agricultural and business activities. GA airports are also involved in military-related and national security operations, directly supporting the readiness and training of our military units. This bill further supports these ends by funding the contract tower cost-sharing program and includes a provision to eliminate burdensome and unnecessary paperwork. It also makes several much needed reforms to FAA’s certifying process and prevents the agency from cutting Contract Weather Observers, which are housed at two Oklahoma airports. FAA reauthorization is critical to our nation’s airports and the aviation community and I look forward to working to ensure its passage.” 

“As the largest association of pilots and aviation enthusiasts, AOPA supports the Senate FAA Reauthorization legislation which will allow the U.S. air traffic control system to continue to be the safest and most efficient in the world, preserves the public benefit that access to aviation brings to rural communities, gives local airports more flexibility to build and repair infrastructure, provides pilots more common sense protections and further facilitates the important role general aviation plays in emergencies,” said Mark Baker, president and CEO of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Organization. “We’d like to thank Sen. Jim Inhofe for his dedication to protecting the freedom to fly and work to ensure that all Americans continue to benefit from access to aviation.” 

Inhofe priorities included in FAA Reauthorization:

S. 755 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 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. 

Funding 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 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 in a letter on Nov. 23, 2015.
  • 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 2017. 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. Inhofe cosponsored an amendment to include a similar provision in the FAA bill that passed the Senate last year.

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