The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation approved legislation on Thursday that would reauthorize and fund the FAA for the next five years.
Called the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2023, the bill would authorize the agency for fiscal years 2024 through 2028. It covers more than $107 billion in appropriations, including $720 million for the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) over the same period.
Broadly, the legislation features provisions aimed at growing the aviation workforce, improving safety, funding airport infrastructure projects, and improving aircraft accessibility for people with disabilities. The bill also looks to continue research and development for aviation technologies, modernize the National Airspace System (NAS), and improve customer protections for airline passengers.
Some specific items covered include expanding air traffic controller training capacity, a requirement for the FAA to hire more manufacturing safety inspectors, engineers, and technical specialists, and increased funding for the Aviation Workforce Development Grants program. The legislation would also establish an Aviation Medical Innovation and Modernization Working Group tasked with addressing pilot mental health. In addition, it would mandate 25-hour cockpit recording devices for aircraft required to carry them, stronger safety requirements for commercial air tours and helicopter operations, and the establishment of a new system and requirements for continuous aircraft tracking including high-altitude balloons.
“With the aviation industry facing serious challenges, this legislation charts a course to address many of them while also modernizing and transforming the FAA’s operations,” said Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas), ranking committee member. “The legislation will also nurture innovation and nascent technology like air taxis, hypersonic planes, and unmanned aircraft. I want to thank my Republican and Democrat colleagues alike for their hard work on this bill.”
The bill was sponsored by Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation chair Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Cruz, aviation subcommittee chair Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), and subcommittee ranking member Jerry Moran (R-Kan). Itl will need to be approved by the full Senate, reconciled with the House’s companion legislation, and signed by the president before becoming law.
The last long-term FAA authorization legislation expired on September 30. Two short-term bills have been passed in the interim, extending authorization and funding for FAA programs and activities first through December 31 and then until March 8. FAA reauthorization legislation was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate in June with the House bill passing in July.