On April 27, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 (H.R. 4) by a vote of 393-20-13, funding the FAA for another five years. The welcomed bipartisan move was widely lauded and celebrated by a general aviation industry that had coalesced for progress. Additionally, the privatization of air traffic control (ATC) was abandoned in the final bill, another win for general aviation groups.

"While not a perfect bill, it's most definitely a good day for general aviation with the House passage of it," noted Amy J. Bednarcik, executive vice president of I Fly America (IFA), in a statement sent to MultiBriefs. "Funding the FAA for a 5-year period is certainly a productive and positive outcome, and one that is necessary to further modernize and advance our aviation system," she said.

GA optimistic, wary

The GA community’s response to the legislation passage has been split between optimism and caution. John Goglia, chairman for the Professional Aviation Maintenance Association (PAMA), shared his optimism in a statement to MultiBriefs.

"We recognize the upcoming workforce challenge, and the need to attract the next generation of aircraft maintainers, and support the inclusion of language directing GAO to examine aviation maintenance industry workforce issues. It’s good to see that our national leaders recognize the problem and are taking steps to support the future of our craft," said Goglia.

The General Aviation Manufacturers Association also praised the U.S. House of Representatives for passing the bill, expressing hope that the act will help advance key priorities for the general aviation manufacturing industry.

"H.R. 4 contains provisions to dramatically improve the FAA certification process, including directing that the FAA fully utilize Organizational Designation Authorization, sending a clear message to the FAA to improve safety cooperation with international partners by focusing on effective and efficient validation and acceptance processes, streamlining FAA’s acceptance of mandatory continuing airworthiness instructions, and directing the FAA to improve its guidance and communication in order to establish more consistency in regulatory interpretation."

While many in the aviation community are relieved the U.S. House of Representatives was able to come to a bipartisan agreement to fund the FAA for a long-term period of time, there was some consternation over a few of the bill’s provisions. Privatized ATC, for example, has been a point of contention in the process towards passing the bill, almost leading to its derailment before opposition from general aviation led to it being abandoned.

ATC privatization removed

"We are so proud of the GA community for letting its voice be heard in opposition to the last-minute effort to privatize the ATC," Bednarcik continued, referring to a last minute amendment by Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., to insert ATC privatization language into the legislation.

Shuster introduced the bill change on April 24, hours before the bill was to go to a vote. Section 5 of the amendment would have moved the FAA Air Traffic Organization to the Department of Transportation. Also, a 13-member board would have been appointed under the amendment to "advise" the DOT on how to run the system.

Following a concerted effort by the general aviation community in opposition, the amendment was ultimately removed from the legislation a day later.

Favorable provisions

While there were aspects during the bill's formulation that GA opposed, there were desirable aspects, too.

For example, according to Bednarcik, "the provisions of the bill address many of the concerns and priorities of the general aviation community including extending the aircraft registration period from three years to 10 years, ensuring the FAA aircraft registry office remains open in the event of a government shutdown, support of airport investment and others equally important."

Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn., celebrated the inclusion of his two amendments: One pushing for the use of geosynthetic materials and another for the cost and time reduction of airport pavement projects.

The bill also included language that protected commercial flyers. According to Mary Kirby with RunwayGirlNetwork.com, "[a]mong a multitude of consumer and crew protection provisions outlined in the bill – including making it generally unlawful to involuntarily bump an already-boarded revenue passenger – the FAA would have one year to set minimum dimensions for ‘seat pitch, width, and length’ as deemed necessary for the safety and health of passengers, and as proposed by Congressman Steve Cohen’s so-called SEAT Act."

The bill also asks the FAA to investigate the recent fatal Southwest engine malfunction incident.

IFA’s Bednarcik reminded that the process toward passing a complete law isn’t over yet. "The Senate bill is next with its review/debate in May and we're looking forward to a similar outcome,” she noted.

"All in all, [it was] a good day for general aviation."