House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Advances Aviation Reform Bill
U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) today released this statement after the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee advanced H.R. 2997, the 21st Century AIRR Act, to reform the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). H.R. 2997, which the committee debated for nearly nine and a half hours and considered roughly 80 amendments, passed out of committee by a vote of 32-25 on Wednesday.
Among other reforms, this bill establishes a federally-chartered, fully independent, not-for-profit corporation to operate and modernize our nation’s air traffic control (ATC) services. For more information on this and the bill’s efforts to improve travel experience for consumers, click here.
“I am proud of this bill and this committee’s efforts to innovate our aviation system so we can continue our exemplary safety standards, remain economically competitive, and improve travel experience for consumers,” said Davis. “Government bureaucracy is not known for fostering innovation and we’ve seen that failure with our nation’s air traffic control system, which continues to operate using technology from World War II. When a plane sits on the runway or at the gate for an extended time or is forced to circle an airport, this is often due to an air traffic control system that is outdated and failed to keep up with our nation’s increased air travel. The FAA has wasted years and billions of taxpayer dollars trying to bring our air traffic control system into the 21st Century and it’s time for a different approach. This bill will bring the U.S. in line with more than 60 countries, including Canada, who use non-government entities to manage their air space.”
Davis offered two amendments that were ultimately included in H.R. 2997 reported out of committee:
• Amendment #25 – would ensure that discriminatory taxes levied at airports are used solely for airport purposes. This would prevent cities and states from levying a tax on a specific industry operating at an airport and diverting that revenue to a project outside of the airport, such as a stadium or a convention center.
• Amendment #26 – creates an aviation rulemaking committee to provide recommendations to the FAA for creating a classification for micro drones, those weighing 4.4 pounds or less (including payload). This would ensure the operators of these low-risk systems are not regulated the same way as someone operating a drone weighing 55 pounds. Under existing regulations, both are treated essentially the same.
“These amendments address issues critical to airports and businesses in the 13th District,” said Davis. “The first, ensures that taxes and fees generated at airports remain for airport projects and improvements. This is just commonsense if we are to continue to boost infrastructure investments. The second, will continue this bill’s focus on innovation and allow for more use of micro drones. These devices can be useful in precision agriculture, helping with search and rescue, increasing safety for bridge and roof inspectors, and many more areas. Their potential is endless and we must make sure government bureaucracy isn’t getting in the way of safely using these devices.”
In addition, H.R. 2997 makes the following reforms important to aviation in the 13th District:
• Empowers small and rural communities to make more decisions about their air service by providing meaningful community involvement
• Protects and strengthens the Contract Tower Program by no longer making contract towers, like those in Bloomington-Normal and Decatur, at risk of closure during a government shutdown;
• Restores the Airport Improvement Program to 2011 funding levels, ensuring continued investment in our nation’s airports;
• Continues the Essential Air Service (EAS) program to ensure communities, like Decatur, are served by commercial air carriers;
• Directs the FAA to recognize the low-risk nature drone operation in rural areas, including over croplands, when implementing policy;
• And prohibits involuntary bumping of passengers once they have already boarded a plane.