FAA Reauthorization Contains Key Cantwell Provisions

Senate-Approved Measures Will Improve Aircraft Navigation and Emergency Medical Flight Safety, Create a Center of Excellence for Aviation Biofuels

WASHINGTON, D.C. The Senate tonight passed a landmark aviation bill that includes provisions authored by U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell to improve the safety of emergency medical flights, improve aircraft navigation and advance the use of biofuels in commercial aircraft.  The provisions are included in the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Act, passed tonight in a 93-0 vote. The bill will now be merged with the House-passed FAA reauthorization bill (H.R. 915).  The legislation modernizes our air traffic control system and makes needed changes to improve air safety at regional airlines in the wake of the 2009 Colgan Air plane crash just outside Buffalo, NY, that killed a total of 50 people.
“This important bill will make our skies safer and less congested and advance U.S. aviation into the 21st century,” Senator Cantwell said. “I was pleased that several Washington state priorities were included which will reduce costs, improve access at regional airports, and protect our safety and environment.”
Two provisions in the bill are particularly important to Washington state.  A provision to improve the safety of air medical service flights authored by Cantwell incorporated her Air Medical Service Safety Improvement Act of 2009.  Cantwell became involved in the issue of emergency air medical service safety when an Emergency Medical Service (EMS) helicopter crashed in the Puget Sound in 2005.  She modified the National Transportation Safety Board’s (NTSB) four recommendations for improving air medical safety, introducing legislation in 2008 and again in 2009.  The provision passed today builds on those four recommendations and further strengthens safety requirements.
Cantwell also authored a provision that advances the Alaska-Horizon “Greener Skies” pilot project at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.  The private sector project is designed to demonstrate the significant environmental and economic benefits of advanced aircraft navigation procedures.
Washington state priorities Cantwell succeeded in including in the FAA reauthorization bill include provisions to:
·         Improve the safety of air medical service flights (the FAA reauthorization bill incorporated her “Air Medical Service Safety Improvement Act of 2009”)
·         Accelerate the development of Required Navigation Performance (RNP), a more precise type of aircraft navigation that provides significant environmental and economic benefits
·         Accelerate the integration of Unmanned Aerial Systems within the national airspace system
·         Create an FAA project for the development of biofuels in commercial aircraft
·         Reauthorize for two years the FAA Center for Excellence for Advanced Materials for Transportation Aviation Structures located at the University of Washington
·         Authorize a pilot program for the comprehensive planning and redevelopment of abandoned airport properties, including Burien, WA, where the noise levels are deemed to be too high
·         Improve the management of the Next Generation Air Traffic Control System program, which makes air travel safer and more reliable for travelers
·         Cap local cost share of the FAA contract tower program at 20 percent, which will benefit smaller airports such as the Walla Walla Airport
·         Require the FAA to report on the need over the next decade for aeronautical mobile telemetry services by civil aviation
·         Require the FAA and NOAA to plan to allow weather instruments to be carried by commercial aircraft, which should help national weather forecasting
The Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act will not only make air travel safer, more environmentally friendly and more efficient, it will also shore up our nation’s economy by creating or saving up to 150,000 jobs.