American aviation needs an upgrade.  The case for Congressional passage of a bipartisan Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill has never been stronger than it is today.  Accelerated technological innovation, the rapid emergence of unmanned aircraft, increased air traffic, and rising global competition present challenges and opportunities for all stakeholders in American aviation.  In order for the aviation industry, the FAA, and the traveling public to excel and capitalize on this quickly evolving landscape, key reforms must be made, and they need to be made now.

Fortunately, a bi-partisan majority of lawmakers are largely on the right track.  In April, the Senate passed a FAA reauthorization bill containing a long list of crucial improvements, including aircraft certification reforms, general aviation and access protections, NextGenimplementation and airline safety improvements, and a defined framework for safe drone integration.  These are commonsense, non-partisan solutions that will make our skies safer and maintain the global competitiveness of our aviation industries. 

ADVERTISEMENT
Now that the Senate has done its part, it’s time for the House to act.  Chairman Shuster and the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee have worked tirelessly and effectively to find solutions to the many challenges facing aviation today.  The AIRR Act, the result of this effort, contains many strong, thoughtful, and incredibly important reforms.  Unfortunately, the House bill’s provision to separate our nation’s Air Traffic Control (ATC) system and place it under the authority of a special non-government entity—which failed to garner bipartisan and universal stakeholder support—has dominated the conversation and slowed down action on the larger bill.

The AIRR Act’s approach to reforming ATC is bold, but it is abundantly clear that the potential outcomes of this proposal have not been fully considered.  The stakes and the costs of removing ATC from FAA are too high and the outcomes are both unpredictable and incredibly consequential.  When it comes to maintaining the safety and functionality of America’s airspace, we must take a measured and targeted approach to reform and we must have all stakeholder hands on deck.  At present, that discrete, but important component of the House proposal fails to meet these standards.

The AIRR Act’s ATC reforms have no chance of becoming law during the 114th Congress, but that does not mean we should abandon the remarkable work of Chairman Shuster and his committee.  The goal of sending an important, market-affirming FAA reauthorization bill to the President’s desk is within our grasp.  Absent the ATC title, the AIRR Act is an outstanding bill that contains crucial bipartisan reforms that will improve the safety and efficiency of American aviation and help spur economic growth by allowing our aviation manufacturers to maintain a competitive edge in the global market. 

If Congress wants to prove it can pass large reform legislation during a presidential election year, this is the ultimate opportunity.  We cannot let ATC reform stand in the way of passing other meaningful reforms that are sorely needed in order to ensure America remains the global leader in aviation.  The Senate passed its FAA reauthorization bill by an overwhelming margin.  It is time for Chairman Shuster and the entire T&I Committee to claim victory, rightfully, by abandoning the controversial ATC reforms and advancing the major achievements in their FAA bill that the American people both expect and deserve.