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Peters Helps Advance Bipartisan FAA Reauthorization Bill

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI) helped advance bipartisan legislation to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) out of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee. The bill would set policy for the FAA through 2028, and now heads to the Senate floor for a vote. It includes numerous provisions secured and supported by Peters that aim to improve aviation safety and service, upgrade airport infrastructure and strengthen consumer protections for flyers.

“This bipartisan bill would increase safety and consumer protections, improve our airports, protect air service in rural communities across Michigan, and help address staffing challenges – all while protecting our national security,” said Senator Peters, who serves as Chairman of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Surface Transportation, Maritime, Freights, and Ports.  

Peters supported the following provisions to:

Modernize Airport Infrastructure and Help Stop the Spread of Toxic PFAS Chemicals:

·        Boost Airport Infrastructure Funding: This bill includes an increase in Airport Infrastructure Program (AIP), which Peters supported and would support infrastructure and technology improvements at Michigan airports.

·        Hold FAA Accountable As It Transitions from Firefighting Foams Containing (PFAS): It includes a provision led by Peters that would hold FAA accountable by requiring the agency to provide updates every six months on the implementation of its national plan to transition to PFAS-free firefighting foams. This effort by Peters builds on his provision enacted as part of the 2018 FAA reauthorization allowing commercial airports to phase out the use of firefighting foams containing PFAS, which can harm public health and the environment. Last year, in a bipartisan push, Peters called on the FAA to expedite a plan to transition to PFAS-free firefighting foams.

·        Dispose of Harmful Airport Firefighting Chemicals: The legislation includes a provision to establish a new grant program to help airports dispose of toxic PFAS chemicals that are used in firefighting foam and replace it with safer solutions for firefighters.

·         Improve Airport Accessibility: This bill would create a new FAA pilot program to award grants to airports to carry out capital projects to upgrade the accessibility of commercial service airports for people with disabilities.

Grow the Aviation Workforce:

·         Promote Women in Aviation: The bill includes Peters’ bipartisan legislation to promote women in aviation by making permanent a Women in Aviation Advisory Committee in the FAA to make recommendations about addressing pilot shortages and strengthening the national aviation workforce by improving recruitment, retention, and promotion of women. Women continue to be underrepresented in the aviation field, where they currently make up less than 12 percent of aerospace engineers, less than 10 percent of licensed pilots and less than 3 percent of maintenance technicians.  

·        Address Air Traffic Control Worker Shortages: This bill includes a provision supported by Peters to require the FAA to revise and implement improved air traffic control staffing standards to help address staffing shortages and meet increasing demand. This bill also would expand FAA air traffic control training capacity while modernizing the training process for employees.

·         Build the Aviation Pipeline, Recruitment and Education: The bill would expand and increase funding for the FAA’s Aviation Workforce Development Grant Program to grow the aviation workforce pipeline and support the education and recruitment of pilots, maintenance technicians, and aircraft manufacturing technical workers. It also would require the FAA to develop a national plan to address critical shortages in the industry.

·         Streamline Job Pathways for Veterans: This bill would streamline the transition for servicemembers to civil aviation maintenance careers and increase the FAA’s outreach and engagement on pathways to attain civilian mechanic certifications. The aviation industry captures less than 10 percent of military aviation maintenance technicians.

Strengthen the Essential Air Service and Investments in Airports in Rural Communities:

·         Brings More Air Service to Rural Areas: This bill includes a provision supported by Peters to strengthen the Essential Air Service (EAS) program by providing additional tools to ensure small and rural communities remain connected to the National Airspace System – including EAS airports in Michigan. The EAS program benefits communities that otherwise would not receive any scheduled air service. Michigan has nine communities eligible for the Essential Air Service program: Alpena, Escanaba, Hancock/Houghton, Iron Mountain/Kingsford; Ironwood, Manistee/Ludington, Muskegon, Pellston and Sault Ste. Marie.

·         Broaden Eligibility Requirement for EAS Airlines: This bill would remove antiquated aircraft limitations to ensure that EAS communities receive as many bids as possible from a variety of airlines.

·         Protect Service to Small Airports: This bill would incentivize airlines to honor their EAS contracts by giving the Department of Transportation the ability to penalize airlines that seek to abandon EAS communities and make it harder for airlines to terminate their contracts. 

·         Fund Service Improvements for Small Airports: This bill would double funding for Small Community Air Service Development (SCASD) grants to $20 million per year while providing more flexibility for grant recipients. These grants are designed to help small communities attract new air service.

Protect National Security:

·        Set Commerce Drone Rules: The bill includes a provision supported by Peters that would require the FAA to set rules for the operation of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) and adds two new UAS test sites, which will be determined through a competitive application process.

·       Track High-Altitude Balloons: Following last year’s U.S. airspace intrusions, including over Lake Huron, the legislation includes a measure that would require the FAA to establish a new system and requirements for continuous aircraft tracking, including the altitude, location and identity of high-altitude balloons.

·         Protects Against Cybersecurity Threats to Aircrafts: This bill would help protect against cybersecurity threats against aircraft avionics, including flight critical systems, through new FAA requirements and review of FAA’s current strategic framework for aviation security.

Improve Consumer Protections and Standards for A Better Flying Experience:

·        Set Clear Right to Refund: This bill would set clear standards in law for refunds when an airline cancels or significantly delays a flight. The bill would also require airlines to provide consumers with a refund after a 3-hour delay for domestic flights and a 6-hour delay for international flights. Airlines would also be required to have an easy-to-find refund request button at the top of their websites.

·        Provide Accountability for Airline Flight Scheduling: The bill would prevent airlines from publishing unrealistic and deceptive flight schedules that lead to cancellations and delays. Airlines would be required to be properly staffed and resourced to operate the flights they sell.

·         Improve Communication with Consumers When Things Go Wrong: This bill would require airlines to provide free, 24/7 access to customer service agents by phone, live chat or text message and the ability to speak with a customer service agent. 

·         Require Family Seating: This bill would prohibit airlines from charging fees for families to sit together. Families shouldn’t have to be burdened by fees just so their young child isn’t seated next to a stranger.

·         Improve Transparency for Fees and Consumer Protections: Under the bill, airlines would be required to display core fees to customers prior to booking, and electronic boarding passes and itineraries must have a link to the Department of Transportation’s aviation consumer protection website and to the department’s complaint form. The bill also would require airports to display “know your rights” posters with information about passenger rights related to refunds, delays and cancellations, and lost and delayed baggage.