Posted on: 04 October 2018 by Mark Howells
The US Regional Airline Association (RAA) has welcomed the lifting of a “cloud of uncertainty” hanging over the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) after the passage of the FAA Reauthorisation Act of 2018.
The act provides the FAA and aviation industry stakeholders with more certainty than has been the case for several decades. The RAA stated that after “years of counterproductive short-term extensions, the FAA is now authorised through 2023; the five-year reauthorisation is the longest for the agency since 1982. This provides the FAA, airlines and airports with the ability to plan for the future.”
The bill is noteworthy for a number of provisions encouraging the development of the future aviation workforce, said the RAA, adding that while the association had pushed for more concrete, safety-enhancing alternate training methods for pilots than are included in the five-year reauthorisation, it appreciates that the legislation “fully acknowledges the challenges facing airlines in recruiting and training pilots and maintenance technicians. With uncertainty over the FAA’s authority and funding now eliminated, the agency, Congress and aviation industry stakeholders should work together to improve pilot training to ensure the necessary quality and quantity of future aviators.”
Importantly, it added, the bill does not strip the FAA of its regulatory authority to address pilot training and qualifications to advance aviation safety.
Essential Air Service
The RAA also said it was pleased Congress has “acknowledged the importance of keeping small communities connected to the global aviation system by reauthorising the Essential Air Service Programme (EAS) at a level of at least US$155 million per year and creating a new Regional Air Transportation Pilot Programme under the Small Community Air Service Development Programme. The new programme, which is authorised at $4.8 million per year, will help rebuild air service to communities that have experienced service declines in recent years.”
RAA president and CEO, Faye Malarkey Black, commented: “Regional airlines are extremely pleased that the cloud of uncertainty over the FAA has finally been lifted and commends Congress for enabling the agency and industry stakeholders to effectively plan long term. We are encouraged by Congress acknowledging that action is required to ensure there are enough well-trained pilots available to keep communities throughout the US connected to the global air transport network. We expect the FAA to continue exploring ways to take advantage of the most modern training technologies and techniques to develop the safest, best-trained pilot workforce possible.”
The legislation requires the FAA to establish pilot and maintenance technician workforce development programmes to provide grants, totalling $5 million per year for each programme, for eligible projects to support the development of the pilot and maintenance workforce. The bill expresses the sense of Congress that it is critical to have a prevalence of programmes and career pathway initiatives leading to employment in the aviation sector.
The bill also requires the US Comptroller General to conduct a study on various factors and best practices influencing the supply of young workers in the aviation industry and submit a report to Congress within a year.
The RAA also added that it was pleased the act “expresses the sense of Congress on the importance of encouraging and supporting women pursuing careers in aviation. The challenge of hiring enough pilots and technicians will not be met without the entire population having access to viable career pathways. The FAA Administrator has been directed to establish the Women in Aviation Advisory Board, which will promote organisations and programmes that provide education, training, mentorship, outreach and recruitment of women into the aviation industry.”
Other provisions in the act include increasing the minimum rest period from eight hours to 10 hours for flight attendants to combat fatigue, safety priorities including banning knives on planes forever, no voice calls, and extending the smoking ban to e-cigarettes.