Days after the House introduced a sweeping bipartisan FAA reauthorization bill, the Senate Commerce Committee released its own version of the legislation on Monday.
Known as the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2023, the bill would authorize more than $107 billion in appropriations for the FAA until 2028. Senate Commerce Committee Chair Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Ranking Member Ted Cruz (R-Texas), aviation subcommittee leaders Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) introduced the legislation.
Similar to the House legislation, key components of the Senate bill include workforce development, airport infrastructure upgrades, technology modernization, and aviation safety.
“When we fly, we expect to get where we’re going, safely, [and] at a reasonable cost,” Cantwell said. “But with mass flight cancellations, runway near misses, and skyrocketing prices, Americans are getting frustrated. The bipartisan FAA Reauthorization Act will help get the air travel system soaring again by improving safety and service. The bill provides funding for the latest safety technology on runways and to hire more air traffic controllers, pilots, and mechanics. The bill also sets the first-ever clear ticket refund standards for delayed flights and will penalize airlines that sell tickets on flights that they don’t have the staff or technology to operate. I look forward to moving the legislation through the committee.”
In response to several near misses at U.S. airports currently under National Transportation Safety Board investigation, the Senate bill “requires the FAA to increase runway safety by deploying the latest airport surface detection equipment and technologies.” It would allocate more than $18 billion to modernize key technologies and systems at FAA facilities. The bill would also require the FAA to complete the last stage of its Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) program by December 31, 2025.
The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2023 supports innovation of new technologies and would establish an airspace innovation office to lead the modernization of the airspace system as it integrates new users such as advanced air mobility. The bill also directs the FAA to “establish a pathway for beyond-visual-line-of-sight (BVLOS) operations and create two additional test sites for companies to start using unmanned aircraft for package delivery or other operations.” In addition, the legislation would support pathways to certification for AAM-powered lift aircraft.
In a joint statement, Cruz and Moran wrote, “As drafted, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization [Act] of 2023 is a first step toward ensuring that the FAA can carry out its core mission of ensuring the safety of the flying public. While there is much work to be done to ensure that this legislation positions the FAA to handle the challenges we face today and the innovation of the future, we want to thank our colleagues for their hard work and dedication to this critical effort. As we continue to improve this legislation to the benefit of our constituents, we are committed to honoring the longstanding tradition that this vital legislation receives broad, bipartisan support.”
Both the House and Senate are expected to mark up their versions of the bill this week.