Murkowski Supports FAA Reauthorization Bill

Addresses Alaska’s Unique Needs, Improves Safety and Security

Today U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) voted in favor of the bicameral legislation that will provide a five-year reauthorization for the FAA, the longest enacted since 1982. This significant legislation strengthens security at airports and in flight, boosts innovation, and address Alaska’s unique transportation challenges. The bill passed the Senate in a 93-6 vote, passed the House last week, and now heads to the President’s desk to be signed into law.

“Tragically a helicopter crashed this past week in Southeast, Alaska. It’s a heart wrenching story but a silver lining is that crews were able to find and rescue one of the passengers, a 14-year-old boy due to an emergency locator transmitter. The bill will continue to develop technology like ELT’s, as it places a high priority on enhancing aviation safety. I’m also pleased this legislation contains provisions that will modernize airport infrastructure, enhance airport safety and security, and improve service for passengers across the board,” said Senator Murkowski. “In Alaska where the majority of our communities simply can’t be reached by road, the importance of Alaskan air service cannot be overstated. This bill reauthorizes the Essential Air Service program, which is vital to so many of our rural communities. Aviation isn’t just a means of transportation for Alaskans – it means food deliveries, access to medical treatment, and basic necessities. Aviation is truly a lifeline in Alaska.”

FAA Re authorization snip

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Alaska Interest Highlights:

  • Essential Air Service (EAS): Reauthorizes a yearly increase for the Essential Air Service program, which provides vital air services for rural communities otherwise isolated from the National Air Transportation System. The bill also adds Little Diomede, Alaska’s western most community, as a new addition to the to the EAS program, allowing greater access and service to the community.
  • Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS): Significantly expands the safe, efficient integration of civil unmanned aircraft systems or drones into national airspace, with specific permissions for the UAS in the Arctic. This will enable researchers such as the University of Alaska-Fairbanks to build upon their innovative work. The bill also includes new provisions to address privacy protections for unmanned aircraft, updates the special rule for model aircraft, and provides greater flexibility to FAA to approve advanced UAS operations.
  • Small Airplane Safety: Requires the FAA to establish a risk-based framework to accelerate installation of safety equipment enhancements for small, general aviation planes.
  • Airport Improvements: Includes support for major airport facility improvements and a provision to protect the Airport Improvement Program to benefit communities like Haines and Manokotak.
  • Regulatory Process Reforms: Streamlines the process to help airports pay for upgrades and repair projects.
  • Exemption for Lithium Batteries: Includes an exemption to allow fully charged lithium ion batteries, often used for pacemakers, to be transmitted to remote areas.
  • Cold Weather Construction: Prioritizes cold weather locations by requiring construction projects in cold weather locations to break ground first.
  • Weather Forecasting Exemption: Allows carriers in Alaska to continue to deliver cargo to facilities throughout the state that do not have forecasted weather data. 

Additional Bill Highlights:

  • Enhance Safety: Strengthens aviation training, reporting, tracking, and cybersecurity as well as authorizes more K-9 security teams. Also requires the FAA to review cabin evacuation procedures to ensure timely and safe evacuations in the event of an emergency.
  • Improve Passenger Service: Directs the FAA to set minimum standards for airline seat sizes, requires private rooms for nursing mothers in large and medium sized airports, and prohibits involuntary bumping of passengers who have already boarded a flight. Also sets new requirements for airlines to promptly return fees for services, such as seat assignments or early boarding, purchased but not received.
  • Boost Industry Innovation and Modernize Airport Infrastructure: Requires the TSA to make available real-time information on security line waits, both in airports and online. Creates a remote air traffic control tower pilot program to deploy new technologies and lower costs of air traffic control services.

In addition, the FAA Reauthorization bill reforms Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) programs to help communities better prepare and respond to disasters, as well as provides $1.68 billion in disaster relief for Americans impacted by Hurricane Florence.