House Transportation Committee Approves First Major Aviation Reform Bill Since 2012
Includes Davis’ Provisions to Make Flying More Family-Friendly and to Exempt Small Drones from FAA Regulation
U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) today announced that the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved H.R. 4441, the Aviation Innovation, Reform, and Reauthorization (AIRR) Act, to modernize and streamline our aviation system leading to fewer delays and savings for taxpayers. H.R. 4441 also includes Davis’ provision to help make flying easier for families and his amendment to exempt small drones from regulation under the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
“Yesterday, the committee succeeded in passing the first major FAA reform bill in nearly four years,” said Davis. “This bill transforms our aviation system to ensure safety, innovation, and global competitiveness. I commend Chairmen Shuster and LoBiondo for their hard work and look forward to voting for this bill on the House floor.”
Davis’ provision to require airline carriers to notify passengers with young children at the initial booking stage if seats are not available together was included in H.R. 4441.
“Traveling with children can already be very stressful for parents and when you can’t sit together on a flight, it only makes the experience even more difficult,” said Davis. “All we’re asking is that if an airline cannot accommodate a passenger flying with a child, they notify them at the initial booking stage so parents can make other arrangements or plan accordingly.”
Davis also offered an amendment during markup of H.R. 4441 that would exempt small drones from regulation under the FAA. Currently, several countries including Canada, Mexico, and Australia have exemptions for small UAS and Europe has proposed a similar classification. This amendment creates a new classification that would exempt micro UAS weighing up to 4.4 pounds from regulation under the FAA, but would still require the UAS to be operated within line of sight, less than 400 feet above the ground, and more than five miles from any airport.
“U.S. policy regarding drones has not kept up with technology and lags behind that of other countries,” said Davis. “This commonsense amendment will remove bureaucratic red tape and allow for the responsible use of small drones. This new classification will spur innovation and help small manufacturers like Horizon Hobby, which specializes in manufacturing drones for agriculture use, in my district expand and create jobs.”
Additionally, H.R. 4441 makes the following changes critical to Central and Southwest Illinois:
• Protects access to rural airports by providing robust funding for the Essential Air Services program, which is critical to Decatur’s airport;
• Continues and enhances the Contract Tower Program. Contract towers handle approximately 28 percent of air traffic operations in the U.S., but account for only 14 percent of the FAA’s total tower operations budget. The program safely provides vital air traffic services to low-activity communities that otherwise would not be able to afford them;
• Encourages greater training of flight attendants to recognize human trafficking on flights;
• Provides robust funding for the Airport Improvement Program, which provides grants to airports to help improve safety and efficiency;
• Maintains the Small Community Air Service Development Program, a grant program that helps smaller communities address air service and airfare issues;
• Streamlines the permitting process for commercial users of UAS/drones, which are important for local businesses like State Farm, ADM, and other agribusiness users, as well as the manufacturers of these drones in Central Illinois;
• And makes important changes to the Air Traffic Control system by establishing an independent, not-for-profit corporation to provide and monitor air traffic services so there will be fewer delays, increased investment in technology, and other infrastructure and cost savings for the taxpayer, all without compromising safety.