Senate Passes FAA Reauthorization Bill

The legislation, which includes provisions for third-class medical reform and drone safety rules, now heads to the House, where it has stalled over a contentious plan to privatize ATC.

United States Senate
The U.S. Senate passed a long-term FAA reauthorization bill on Tuesday.Scrumshus/Creative Commons

The Senate overwhelmingly passed a long-term FAA reauthorization bill on Tuesday, sending the measure to the House, where similar legislation has stalled over a plan to privatize ATC.

Lawmakers approved by a vote of 95-3 an amended measure that would fund the FAA through fiscal year 2017.

The Senate bill includes a number of provisions that are being championed by general aviation, including third-class medical reform, and would authorize annual increases in Airport Improvement Program funding, streamline certification for light GA aircraft, support a transition to unleaded aviation fuel, and make it easier to install modern safety equipment in legacy aircraft.

GA groups applauded the Senate bill’s passage for scrapping the ATC privatization proposal.

"On behalf of NBAA's more than 10,000 member companies, we applaud this bipartisan step toward implementing a smart, targeted approach to funding the FAA’s efforts to modernize what is already the world's safest ATC system, without going down the dangerous path of turning our ATC system over to a private board," said National Business Aviation Association president and CEO Ed Bolen.

Said AOPA president Mark Baker: "This is a solid bill for general aviation. The third-class medical reform language goes far beyond the AOPA-EAA 2012 petition and means that hundreds of thousands of pilots will never need another FAA medical exam. Getting these reforms is vital to the entire general aviation community. Add to that the fact that there are no user fees for general aviation in this bill and there are provisions to continue research into unleaded fuels and increase grants for improvements to GA airports, and it’s all good news for GA.”

The bill's fate in the House is uncertain. The current FAA reauthorization expires on July 15.