Last Thursday, the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation approved the bipartisan Senate Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Act of 2023. The legislation, which garnered bipartisan support, encompasses a range of measures addressing recent aviation safety concerns and aims to fortify oversight within the aviation industry.
A Senate Commerce Committee announcement highlighted the key components of the bill, emphasizing its commitment to elevating aviation safety and consumer welfare. Senator Maria Cantwell, Chair of the Committee, underscored the significance of the legislation, stating, “This bipartisan bill delivers improvements to aviation safety and consumer protections that Americans have been demanding.”
What’s Inside FAA Reauthorization 2023?
Among the notable provisions outlined in the announcement is the mandate to increase the number of FAA safety inspectors on factory floors and air traffic controllers in towers. The bill also enforces mandatory refunds for flight disruptions and prohibits airlines from imposing additional charges for families to sit together, addressing longstanding grievances of passengers.
Senator Ted Cruz, Ranking Member of the Committee, lauded the bipartisan effort, stating, “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.”
Furthermore, the legislation addresses critical aspects of aviation safety, including the deployment of safety technology to prevent near-misses, the implementation of 25-hour cockpit voice recorders, and the enhancement of investigations into service difficulty reports. These measures are aimed at bolstering the integrity of aviation operations and equipping regulatory bodies with the necessary tools to conduct thorough investigations.
In addition to enhancing safety measures, the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2023 prioritizes consumer protections, setting refund standards for non-refundable tickets and extending the validity of airline vouchers to five years. The bill also triples fines for airline consumer violations and establishes a dedicated Office of Consumer Protection at the Department of Transportation, aimed at safeguarding the interests of passengers.
Senator Tammy Duckworth, Chair of the Aviation Safety Subcommittee, expressed satisfaction with the bill’s focus on safety and accessibility, stating, “I’m so proud that this bill includes many of my priorities—including my EVAC Act and a provision that upholds strong pilot certification standards—to help make flying safer and more accessible for all Americans.”
Drones and Innovation
Moreover, the legislation seeks to foster innovation within the aviation industry by allocating funding for the Essential Air Service Program, doubling funding for the Small Community Air Service program, and creating pathways for the certification of emerging technologies such as air taxis and unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).
For the drone industry, the specific timeline for a ruling on BVLOS flight is a critical element in the Reauthorization package.
The passage of the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2023 by the Senate Committee is a final step towards passage of the Bill. The current FAA authorization expired at the end of September: two subsequent extensions have providing funding for the agency until March.
Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has penned over 3,000 articles focused on the commercial drone space and is an international speaker and recognized figure in the industry. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
For drone industry consulting or writing, Email Miriam.
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