New FAA reauthorization doesn’t privatize air traffic controllers

The federal government is backing away from its plan to privatize air traffic controllers in its new FAA reauthorization bill. Via Roll Call.

In a statement Wednesday, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bill Shuster said the House would vote on an aviation bill that would reauthorize the FAA through fiscal 2023 as well as include provisions of a bill previously passed by the House that makes changes to Federal Emergency Management Administration policy.

Shuster, R-Pa., introduced the bill last week after accepting that a version he wrote last year and moved through committee would not have enough votes to pass because it included a provision to remove the air traffic control system from the government. The new bill won’t include the air traffic control spinoff.

That sound of “Hallelujah,” you hear is probably Jazz who has documented his opposition to the plan for months. He’s taken some heat for his position particularly from Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Marc Scribner and I’m curious to see what his view of Shuster’s new bill will be.

Scribner is disappointed by Shuster’s decision but writes at CEI he’s still pretty pleased with the overall package, writing it will improve aviation policy.

Most significantly, the safety certification reform title remains in place. This part of the bill aims to address major problems with the FAA’s outdated, prescriptive aircraft certification processes by encouraging the adoption of risk-based, performance standards. Also included are provisions requiring the FAA to monitor its progress and publicly release the results.

The FAA is in the midst of a complex overhaul of its safety programs to meet its risk-based compliance philosophy that debuted under the Obama administration, and H.R. 4’s certification reforms will encourage the agency to go even further. Once these reforms are implemented, the time and resources needed to meet the FAA’s aircraft certification requirements should fall. This will allow manufacturers to bring their products to market sooner and at a lower cost, while ensuring safety equivalence. The importance of these reforms will become greater by the year as new aviation technologies are developed and run afoul of the FAA’s overly prescriptive regulatory environment.

There are still parts of the bill which don’t make any sense to me. One of them bans vaping on all flights, another provision bans cell phone calls, and a third requires airports to create nursing rooms for mothers. There’s also text making it an “unfair or deceptive practice to involuntarily deplane a revenue passenger onboard an aircraft, if the revenue passenger is traveling on a confirmed reservation; and checked-in for the relevant flight prior to the check-in deadline.” This is obviously in response to last year’s kerfuffle involving the United Airlines passenger in Chicago but I’m not sure it should be the government setting up these regulations. United took a major publicity hit for what happened even if their sales didn’t exactly drop. United’s stock declined as well and is only now starting to recover. The episode shows how individual companies will work to correct mistakes even if it takes time and there are bumps on the road.

I’m curious to see if there will be more changes to Shuster’s legislation following the death of a Southwest Airlines passenger earlier this week. Shuster says no and hopefully that’s the case unless there are ways to reduce the government’s involvement in air travel and the industry in general. It’s always possible Congress could get cold feet on reform, although House leadership may have found a way around it by attaching Shuster’s bill to disaster relief. Via Roll Call.

“Americans are standing together to support affected communities as they rebuild so they come back stronger from these disasters and are better prepared for the future,” [Kevin McCarthy] said. “Next week the House will support those efforts as part of FAA reauthorization and give FEMA the tools and oversight needed to strengthen their response to disasters.”

The bill focuses on provisions meant to improve pre-disaster planning and mitigating disasters when they do happen. It would add resiliency to the allowable uses of FEMA hazard mitigation funding and would allow grants for infrastructure and economic development to be used for disaster mitigation. It also would expands the list of authorized activities that count as hazard mitigation.

I hate it when Congress decides to add bills to other bills, as it seems like a cheap way to get legislation that can’t stand on its own through Congress. In any case, the FAA has to be reauthorized by the end of September. Over to you, Jazz.