FAA Reauthorization Legislation Heads to the Senate

A long-term funding bill could reach the president's desk before the August recess.

The House and Senate will need to work out major differences between their two versions of the FAA bill.Wikimedia Commons

FAA reauthorization legislation that would fund programs through 2023 heads to the U.S. Senate after passage of the House bill, HR 4, late last month. Lawmakers say they hope they can begin debating the legislation in the Senate in the coming weeks and get a final bill to President Donald Trump's desk before the August recess.

But there’s still much to be hammered out between the House and Senate versions of the bills that could delay passage. The FAA’s current reauthorization legislation expires in September, creating urgency to work out differences in the bills so they can be voted on and sent to the White House.

Neither the House nor the Senate versions of the legislation include provisions for privatized ATC, the major sticking point in the House version that caused delays as the airlines and general aviation fought a protracted battle over the issue. The House bill does, however, include provisions ordering the FAA to report on NextGen ATC progress, extend the aircraft registration period from three years to 10 years, explore potential alternative security procedures to allow vetted pilots to fly during temporary flight restrictions, and address flight-sharing rules for private pilots.

The Senate bill, meanwhile, is expected to include language that would amend the so-called 1,500-hour rule for airline pilots, although opposition to any changes to current rules has been on the rise in recent months. Those in favor of relaxing airline hiring rules, enacted in 2013 as a result of the deadly Colgan Air crash in Bufallo, New York, in 2009, point to the growing pilots shortage as a reason why the regulations should be reviewed.

The Senate Transportation Committee approved its FAA reauthorization bill, S 1405, by voice vote last summer.