Murkowski: Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Bill Includes Provisions Important to Alaska

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, announced today that the Senate passed a $34.5 billion Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill that contains several provisions important to Alaska, including one that would help ensure continued operation of Alaska flight service stations.

Flight service stations provide vital air traffic and weather information to pilots. In the Lower 48, flight service stations are run by a single private contractor, while in Alaska, the FAA continues to operate the facilities. Murkowski is concerned about the training of future flight service specialists in Alaska, now that the FAA has closed its training program. A Murkowski amendment that was included in the bill would require the FAA to conduct a study on the future of flight service stations in Alaska.

"I want to ensure that Alaskan pilots continue to have access to vital weather and air traffic information supplied by trained flight service specialists," Murkowski said. "We need to be sure that the FAA continues to focus on the safety needs of the Alaskan aviation community."

Murkowski also co-sponsored with U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, an amendment that would bring a common sense approach to regulations for shipping oxygen by air.

Recently, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration enacted regulations requiring large and heavy boxes for transporting oxidizing gases. While well intentioned, the regulation is cost prohibitive, making it nearly impossible for rural hospitals and health clinics to receive oxygen tanks for their patients. Last fall, Murkowski worked with stakeholders and the federal government to obtain exemptions for the continued shipment of oxygen for medical purposes.

Unfortunately, the exemptions are slated to expire in the coming months. The Begich/Murkowski amendment would make the exemptions permanent, not only for the shipment of medical oxygen but also for shipment of oxidized construction materials.

"Alaskans, especially in rural areas, rely on air shipment," Murkowski said. "I simply do not see any way our rural communities can comply with these new regulations. The safety administration clearly did not write these rules to accommodate shipping large quantities of oxygen by air, preferring instead to see this material moved by ground. In rural Alaska that is highly impractical at best, and often physically impossible."

The FAA reauthorization bill also would provide funding for airport construction programs and expansion of next-generation air traffic control technology, which was built on technology pioneered in Alaska. Under the bill, the program would be expanded without imposing new user-fees. 

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