The House of Representatives has passed H.R. 915, which among many other things would reauthorize the FAA’s budget through FY 2012. The final tally was 277 to 136 (to see how your Congressman or -woman voted, click here.)
The floor debate focused in large part on inspections of foreign repair stations. Here a summary from the well-informed (though partisan) Aeronautical Repair Station Association:
House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Jim Oberstar (D-MN-8) exchanged barbs with the committee’s ranking member, Rep. John Mica (R-FL-7) over the potential impact of Sec. 303.
Rep. Mica, supported by House Aviation Subcommittee Ranking Member Tom Petri (R-WI-6) emphasized that Sec. 303 violates the current bilateral aviation safety agreement (BASA) with the European Union. The EU has stated that if the language in Sec. 303 becomes law, the BASA will collapse, causing a severe impact for the over 1,200 repair stations in the United States that complete work for European customers. Armed with letters from impacted businesses and associations, Rep. Mica continued to stress that the section was a “job killer”.
While Rep. Mica reeled off the devastating job losses that could result from Sec. 303’s enactment, Rep. Oberstar replied that the EU was simply “crying wolf” and no retaliation will actually occur. In addition, Rep. Oberstar and House Aviation Subcommittee Chairman Jerry Costello (D-IL-12) continued their claim that the amendment was based on safety concerns.
So what is H.R. 915 all about? You can find Rep. Costello’s view here; another interesting summary comes from Aero-News Network.
Given the momentum that various NextGen-related projects are enjoying at the moment, it’s somewhat sobering to be reminded of the sad fate of a much smaller, but nonetheless very promising initiative from the past. NAOMS, the National Aviation Operations Monitoring Service, was an attempt to improve safety by surveying front-line aviation professionals industrywide. Launched in 1997 and killed in 2004, the House Science and Technology Committee says the program died “due to changing priorities at NASA, budget cuts in the aeronautics program and hostility from FAA.”
Now, the GAO has released a report on the project and has laid out a potential roadmap for future initiatives of this sort. A summary courtesy of the Science and Technology Committee, with critical comments by Reps. Gordon, Miller, and Costello, can be found here.
It wasn’t a surprise, but Jerry Costello was reappointed chairman of the House Aviation Subcommittee this week. From the Belleville (Ill.) News-Democrat:
“We have a lot of work to do and I look forward to working with President-elect (Barack) Obama to enact comprehensive legislation to reauthorize the (FAA) as quickly as possible this year, and addressing air traffic controller issues has to be a major part of that process,” Costello stated.
Costello, who also served as chairman during the 110th Congress, said his focus will continue to be aviation safety, consumer and passenger issues, and the design and implementation of the Next Generation Air Transportation System.
“Aviation must also be a part of infrastructure investment in any economic stimulus package, and I will continue to work with Chairman (James) Oberstar and my colleagues towards this goal,” Costello said.
When Congress returns for a full session next year, all eyes will be watching Rep. Jerry Costello (D-IL), who heads the aviation subcommittee of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee. Costello and his colleagues will be taking point on the all-important FAA reauthorization bill, without which NextGen will remain nothing but a pipe dream.
Last week, Congressman Costello sat down with Fly NextGen to talk about his frustrations with times past and his hopes for times to come.
To read the interview from the beginning, start here.
On his skepticism: “The FAA does not have the best track record in their attempts to improve the air traffic control system. A lot of money has been spent — not only under this administration — and we have very little to show for it.” (Link)
On capacity: “I think it would be a mistake to believe that NextGen and the infrastructure improvements are not needed because of the temporary reduction in the number of flights.” (Link)
On user fees: [The Bush administration] “spent a great deal of time talking about imposing user fees, and at no time explained to the American people, let alone the Congress, how the system would work. So it was a major failure on their part.” (Link)
Economic stimulus: “There are projects that are ready to go, as far as runway and taxiway improvements and other issues addressing congestion and safety. And I believe that airport improvements should be part of any stimulus package that has a component for improving our infrastructure.” (Link)
Labor relations: “Recently, I was in a tower at an U.S. airport that is extremely busy, and of the dozen or so controllers that were on duty, the most experienced controller was on the job 18 months, and many of them were there less than a year. So there’s a horrible morale problem, everybody recognizes it but the FAA.” (Link)