House Passes FAA Reauthorization Bill

FAA ReauthorizationU.S. House passes the “Securing Growth and Robust Leadership in American Aviation Act” in 351-69 vote.

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The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a 5 year FAA Reauthorization Bill.  H.R. 3935, “Securing Growth and Robust Leadership in American Aviation Act” passed in a bipartisan 351-69 vote.

The Bill passed the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in June.  Several controversial aspects of that proposal, including the expansion of flights serviced at Washington D.C.’s Ronald Reagan International Airport, were eliminated before the final vote.

The Act will now pass to the Senate.  The Senate is considering their own version of the bill, S. 1939.

The current FAA Reauthorization will expire September 30.  Before that date, Congress must either pass the 2023 Reauthorization, or pass an extension of the current bill, to keep the FAA operating.

FAA Reauthorization includes many details related to airport and infrastructure modernization, dealing with pilot and ATC shortages, cybersecurity, pilot training, drone integration, and more.   Historically, FAA Reauthorization has been difficult to pass.  Before the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018, the FAA worked under a series of extensions.  The 2018 Act was the first passed since 2012; and was the first 5 year reauthorization since 1982.

FAA Reauthorization and the Drone Industry

A timely passage of an FAA Reauthorization Bill is important for the drone industry to move forward.  Both House and Senate versions of the Bill contain provisions related to the commercial drone and AAM industries.  In the immediate future, the FAA Reauthorization packages could drive a rulemaking on BVLOS flight according to specific timelines and referencing the recommendations of the BVLOS ARC, which were released in March of 2022.

From H.R. 3935:

Not later than 4 months after the date of enactment of this Act, the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration shall issue a notice of proposed rulemaking establishing performance-based airworthiness criteria and risk-based operational regulations for unmanned aircraft systems operated beyond visual line of sight that are intended to operate primarily at or below 400 feet above ground level.

In addition to directly addressing a BVLOS rulemaking, the packages define agency remits that include UAS flights over the arctic, carriage of hazardous materials by drone, funding for Know Before You Fly educational campaigns, integration, Remote ID, tethered drones for public safety, workforce development, and more.  The House package, for example, directs the FAA to hire more people for the UAS Integration Office, and implement a UAS Integration strategy.

As FAA Reauthorization moves through Congress, the agency is still without a permanent leader.  The FAA Administrator is appointed by the President with approval of the Senate.  Since President Trump-appointed FAA Administrator Steve Dickson left the position mid-way through his 5 year appointment in March of 2022, the agency has been led first by Acting FAA Administrator Billy Nolen and currently by Acting FAA Administrator Polly Trottenberg.  President Biden’s first FAA Administrator nomination, Denver Airport CEO Phil Washington, withdrew from the process following questions about his depth of experience.  Reportedly, President Biden will next nominate former FAA Deputy Mike Whitaker.

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