Murkowski Celebrates Wins for Alaska in FAA Reauthorization

Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) today voted in favor of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Act, legislation that will improve traveler safety while addressing the unique needs of the FAA Alaska Region.  

The bill reauthorizes the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) through Fiscal Year 2028, providing policy direction, certainty, and authority to hire and train air traffic controllers, establish protections for passengers with disabilities, develop technology programs, and improve safety. 

The Senate also passed a one-week short-term extension to avoid a lapse in FAA authorities set to expire this Friday, and to allow time for the House to consider and pass the long-term reauthorization next week.

“The FAA reauthorization is a significant step forward for the entire aviation ecosystem – Americans can fly with a greater peace of mind knowing that strong policy and investments have been made with their safety in mind,” Senator Murkowski said. “As this legislation came together, I sought to address the unique challenges facing the Alaskan aviation system due to our harsh environment and reliance on air transportation. I’m particularly proud of the Don Young Alaska Aviation Safety Initiative, a multifaceted program that will improve Alaska’s aviation safety record, ensuring passengers flying in everything from Boeing 737s to Cessna 206s will be safer in the skies. This initiative’s emphasis on providing reliable certified weather reporting data will help pilots make decisions that improve safety and improve the flow of air service into rural communities.”

Highlights for Alaska

  • Senator Murkowski used her position as a senior member of the Appropriations Committee to dedicate resources to the FAA Alaska Safety Initiative (FAASI), which provided a holistic review of the necessary aviation safety needs in Alaska. This effort is reflected in the bill’s establishment of the Don Young Alaska Aviation Safety Initiative, a program to address Alaskan airspace safety priorities that: 
    • Sets a goal to reduce the rate of fatal aircraft accidents by 90 percent from 2019-2033 and eliminating fatal accidents of commercial aircraft in Alaska, Hawaii, and the territories of the United States by 2033.
    • Authorizes $25 million annually for the duration of the bill to ensure the program has the resources to achieve their mandate.
    • Requires the FAA Administrator to adopt NTSB Report recommendations for Alaska.
    • Designates the FAA Alaska Regional Administrator as the head of the initiative providing the region the authority and leadership to address Alaska’s needs.
    • Sets 2030 deadlines for the installation of certified weather technology (AWOS/VWOS).
    • Holds the FAA Administrator responsible for the reliability of certified weather systems in Alaska, and requires within two years a “weather system reliability and restoration plan for Alaska” to include telecommunications connection reliability and the available maintenance parts and staff.
    • Creates a process and requirement to deploy additional weather cameras, while requiring consultation with government and airspace users for deployment location.
    • Requires the FAA to ensure ADS-B aircraft tracking technology is available across Alaska above 5,000 feet by 2030.

The FAA reauthorization bill also: 

  • Provides a special exception for Alaska to ensure aviation fuel (“avgas”) is available until 2032, forbidding the FAA or EPA from regulating this essential fuel source for Alaskan pilots.
  • Protects and authorizes funds to maintain full Essential Air Service operations for Alaska, so that communities not connected by road will have access to air transportation.
  • Ensures projects essential to Alaska receive Airport Improvement Program (AIP) funding, including for runway resurfacing, runway lengthening, construction access for rural airports, snow removal equipment, fuel deliveries, and firefighting response.
  • Establishes a five-year, $350 million grant program to reimburse airports to replace firefighting equipment that utilizes PFAS, while also funding the disposal of PFAS chemicals.
  • The legislation also paves the way for Alaska to lead on unmanned aircraft system (UAS) testing, by building on the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ (UAF) Alaska Center for Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration (ACUASI). The bill also reauthorizes the UAS test site program, expands ACUASI’s ability to build new UAS aircraft technologies, and expands the allowable UAS aircraft size for Arctic operations.

National Highlights

  • Provides measures so that Air Traffic Controllers are staffed at reliable levels. Additionally, requires the FAA to develop a plan to expand its capacity to train air traffic controllers.
  • Requires the FAA to set up “Runway Safety Council” to examine close calls and near misses, while evaluating technologies and methods to improve aircraft safety on and around airports.
  • For flights that experience major delays longer than three hours, airlines are now required to issue a refund to passengers that choose not to fly on the flight or accept other compensation.
  • Directs the FAA to require air carriers to allow families with children under the age of 14 the ability to sit together at no extra cost beyond the price of the ticket.