CONGRESSWOMAN ELISE STEFANIK
The House is scheduled to consider an Amendment to H.R. 1586, the FAA Air Transportation Modernization and Safety Improvement Act of 2010, on Thursday, March 25, 2010. The bill was introduced on March 18, 2009, by Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) as a bill to impose taxes on bonuses received by employees of TARP recipients. On March 22, 2010, the Senate amended the legislation in the nature of a substitute reauthorizing the Federal Aviation Administration and passed the bill by a vote of 93-0. The House will now consider an amendment which replaces the Senate-passed bill with what is essentially the text of two House-passed bills, H.R. 915 (the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act of 2009) and H.R. 3371 (the Airline Safety and Pilot Training Improvement Act of 2009).
H.R. 1586 would reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) operations and programs for three years, through FY 2012, and alter a number of FAA policies. The bill would appropriate $53 billion for FAA operations. The Senate version of the bill extended the FAA authorization for two years, through FY 2011. The following is a summary of the major authorizations and policy changes.
The bill would authorize $53 billion in appropriations for a number of FAA operations as follows:
In addition, the bill would increase the maximum amount of Passenger Facility Charges, which are collected by airlines and given directly to airports from $4.50 to $7, an increase of 56 percent. The bill would also increase FAA fees for registering aircrafts.
Airport Improvement Program Modifications: The bill makes a number of changes to the Airport Improvement Program (AIP), including increasing the federal cost from 75 percent to 95 percent, altering AIP funding formulas to require that 10 percent of all funds are used for the state apportionment program, and requires that at least $520 million be made available for AIP annually. In addition, the bill would increase the authorization level for the Airport Security Program from $5 million to $8 million annually.
Next Generation Air Transportation System
H.R. 1586 would establish an Associate Administrator for the Next Generation (Next Gen) Air Transportation System to oversee the Next Gen program and implementation. The bill would also authorize up to $25 million annually from FY 2010 through FY 2012 to carry out "such airspace redesign initiatives as the Administrator determines appropriate."
H.R. 1586 contains a number of new provisions and regulations meant to address safety concerns, including:
Inspection of Foreign Repair Stations: Requires the FAA Administrator to verify that each certified foreign repaid station has been inspected.
Runway Safety: Requires the FAA Administrator to develop a strategic runway safety plan, with an emphasis on preventing runway incursions and submit to Congress within six months of enactment.
Pilot Licenses: Requires the FAA to issue "improved pilot licenses" which are resistant to tampering within six months of enactment.
Flight Crew Fatigue: Requires the FAA to conduct a study on flight crew fatigue within three months of enactment.
Non-Certified Maintenance: Requires the FAA to establish regulations within three months requiring that all maintenance on commercial aircraft is performed by certain authorized persons.
FAA Task Force: Require the FAA to establish a new task force on Air Carrier Safety and Pilot Training.
NTSB Recommendations: Requires the FAA to conduct a rule making proceedings to air carriers to provide flight crewmembers with ground training and flight training or flight simulator training per NTSB recommendations.
Pilot Records Database: Establishes the FAA Pilot Records Database and requires that air carriers submit each pilot's records to the database. Pilot's would be able to view their records after making a written request and would be allowed to submit public comments to correct inaccuracies.
Air Service Improvements
Essential Air Service: H.R. 1586 permanently increases the authorization for the Essential Air Service (EAS) from $77 million annually to $150 million per year. Under EAS, the Department of Transportation makes payments to air carriers which provide service to certain rural communities.
Smoking Prohibition: Bans smoking on any passenger interstate air transportation or foreign air transportation.
Cell Phone Ban: Bans the use of mobile voice communications during a flight.
Environmental Stewardship and Streamlining
CLEEN Research: The bill authorizes $108 million from FY 2010 though FY 2012 for the FAA to establish a ten-year cooperative agreement to produce continuous lower energy, emissions and noise (CLEEN) engine and airframe technology.
Environmental Mitigation Program: Requires the Department of Transpiration to establish a mitigation demonstration grant program at public-use airports and stipulates that new grant may be in excess of $2.5 million.
FAA Employees and Organizations
FAA Personnel Management: The bill establishes a new process for resolving disputes between the FAA and employees in collective bargaining units, specifically the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NACTA). Under this bill, any changes in personnel policy implemented by the FAA after July 25, 2005, for collective bargaining units without current contracts would be null and void, and the parties would be governed by their last mutual agreement. H.R. 1586 also specifies conditions under which employees could receive back pay and would specifically authorize $20 million for such payments. H.R. 1586 would require the FAA to resume negotiations with NATCA and other collective bargaining units that do not have current contracts. If agreements are not reached within 45 days of resuming negotiations, the new dispute resolution process set forth in the bill would apply. CBO estimates that fully funding those proposed changes would cost taxpayers $83 million in 2010 and about $1 billion through 2012.
Safety Critical Staffing: The bill authorizes $813 million over three years for safety critical positions in the Flight Standards Service and Aircraft Certification Service.
H.R. 1586 reauthorizes the FAA aviation insurance program, which is intended to provide insurance to domestic airlines that cannot be provided through the commercial insurance market. The bill would extend the provision through 2019. Under current law, the program will expire at the end of FY 2010.
Airport and Airway Trust Fund Financing
FAA Trust Fund Financing Extension: H.R. 1586 extends certain authorities of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for approximately three years, through September 31, 2012. The bill would extend the FAA's authority to spend money from the Airport and Airway Trust Fund (AATF), their authority to charge taxes, and their appropriated spending levels. Under current law, these authorities would expire on March 31, 2009.
The bill extends certain aviation-related taxes that are used to finance the Airport and Airway Trust Fund, including ticket taxes. Specifically, the bill would extend the domestic passenger ticket tax at its current level of 7.5 percent of ticket price, the domestic flight segment tax at its current level of $3.40 per passenger, and the domestic cargo tax at 6.25 percent of the cost of transporting property.
H.R. 1586 authorizes the appropriation of funds for the Airport Improvement Program for Fiscal Year 2010, and extends its program grant authority through 2012. Additionally, the bill authorizes funding for operations, as well as the Air Navigation Facilities and Equipment. Finally, the bill authorizes funding for FAA research, engineering, and development.
Kerosene Tax: H.R. 1586 imposes a tax of 35.9 cents-per-gallon on aviation-grade kerosene used in non-commercial aviation. An additional 0.1 cent-per-gallon tax would be assessed and deposited into the Leaking Underground Storage Tank Trust Fund. Under current law, kerosene is taxed at a rate of 21.8 cents-per-gallon, thus the bill increases the tax by 14.1 cents-per-gallon.
FAA Authorization: In the 110th and 111th Congresses, the House passed several short-term FAA extensions authorities which were signed into law. On March 24, 2010, the House passed H.R. 4915, the Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act, which would extend certain authorities of the FAA for approximately three months, from March 31, 2010, through July 4, 2010, by voice vote.
FAA Safety: According to House Report 111-284, the last six fatal commercial air crashes have involved regional air carriers, including the crash of Continental Connection Flight 3407 on approach to the Buffalo-Niagara International Airport on February 12, 2009. While the National Transportation Safety Board has not made a final determination regarding the cause of Flight 3407, the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure notes that the main focuses of the investigation remain flight crew experience and training, remedial training programs, commuting policies and practices, fatigue management, etc. In June, 2009, the Aviation Subcommittee held a hearing on "Regional Air Carriers and Pilot Workforce Issues." As a result of the hearing, the subcommittee determined that the FAA needed to closely examine its current regulations regarding "pilot training and flight and duty time limits, FAA oversight of regional air carriers, access to pilot records for hiring, and airline commuting policies and procedures." H.R. 1586 is an attempt to improve these aviation safety areas by requiring the FAA to make several new rules, restrictions, and regulations on pilots addressing these issues for commercial flights.
According to CBO's analysis of earlier legislation (H.R. 3371) contained in this bill, the legislation would create new private sector mandates on certain commercial carriers as well as sellers of airline tickets. CBO is unable to determine the cost of these mandates because the legislation leaves a so much of the rule making authority to the FAA. According to CBO, "Because the cost of complying with some of those mandates would depend on future regulations, CBO cannot determine whether the aggregate cost to comply with the private-sector mandates in the bill would exceed the annual threshold established in UMRA." Among other things, the bill requires air carriers to further train pilots on handling stalls and other emergencies, hire only pilots with certain training, establish a new mentoring program, develop a new safety management system, create a fatigue risk management plan, conduct new pre-employment screening, and maintain and share an employee database. While CBO says that many of these standards are already being met, the unknown cost of implementing the FAA's new regulations could be passed on to consumers in the form of higher airline costs.
A CBO cost estimate for H.R. 1586 was not available at press time, however, the bill would authorize the appropriation of approximately $53 billion from FY 2010 through FY 2012 and extend and increase a number of taxes related to air travel.