The U.S. Senate on Tuesday passed its version of a bill reauthorizing the Federal Aviation Administration through fiscal year 2017.
The bill passed by a vote of 95-3.
In addition to reauthorizing the FAA for another year, the bill contains several provisions affecting Kansas, including requiring the Transportation Security Administration to provide security screening at smaller airports, including in Salina. It also protects grant funding for small airports and preserves the Contract Weather Observers program at 57 airports, including Wichita Eisenhower National Airport.
“I am particularly encouraged by the inclusion of the TSA Fairness Act, support for a robust general aviation sector, and a commonsense provision to protect the Contract Weather Observers Program,” Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., said in a news release. Moran and Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., voted for the bill.
Other provisions of the bill include prevention of the privatization of the air traffic control system and streamlining the FAA’s aircraft certification process.
Officials from the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association also said the Senate’s bill reforms requirements for third-class medical certificates for pilots and doesn’t include general aviation user fees.
Specifically, the bill would allow most pilots who have had a regular or special issuance third-class medical certificate within 10 years of enactment to not have to see an aviation medical examiner again. The exception would be pilots who develop certain cardiac, mental health or neurological conditions.
“Getting these reforms is vital to the entire general aviation community,” Mark Baker, AOPA chief executive, said in a statement Tuesday. “Add to that the fact that there are no user fees for general aviation in this bill and there are provisions to continue research into unleaded fuels and increase grants for improvements to GA airports, and it’s all good news for GA.”
But not all groups were satisfied with the Senate’s FAA bill.
The National Consumers League said Tuesday that one provision it supported was not included as an amendment, despite receiving bipartisan support in a Senate committee. The amendment called for prohibiting airlines from imposing ancillary fees that charge travelers more than what it costs the airlines to provide.
“Consumers are demanding real reforms that address the explosion of airline fees, yet the Senate failed to even vote on the FAIR (Forbid Airlines from Imposing Ridiculous) Fees Act,” Sally Greenberg, executive director of the National Consumers League, said in a statement.
The House must still approve its version of FAA reauthorization, which has moved out of committee and awaits a full vote.