Tue. Jun 18th, 2024

Biden signs sweeping aviation safety, reform bill into law

By 37ci3 May17,2024

the president Joe Biden Broad aviation legislation was signed into law Thursday that would strengthen the staffing of US air traffic controllers, increase funding to prevent near-runway incidents and speed up refunds for canceled flights.

The $105 billion, five-year measure reauthorizes the Federal Aviation Administration. It bans airlines from charging families to sit together, requires airplanes to be equipped with devices that record 25 hours of cockpit time, raises the maximum civil penalties for airline consumer violations from $25,000 to $75,000 per violation, and tightens controls on aircraft manufacturing.

“After flight disruptions, calls for runway closures and consumer frustration, this legislation will deliver the safest, most reliable aviation system in the world,” said Maria Cantwell, chairwoman of the Senate Commerce Committee. “Aircraft manufacturers will see more safety inspectors on their factory floors and stricter safety standards from the FAA.”

Biden has repeatedly clashed with air carriers, calling for tougher new consumer rules and harshly criticizing them for imposing tariffs. His administration also moved aggressively to prevent further consolidation in the passenger airline industry, including successfully blocking a merger between JetBlue Airways and Spirit Airlines and disrupting the alliance between JetBlue and American Airlines.

The law also adds five daily round-trip departure and landing slots at busy Washington National Airport, which Delta Air Lines lobbied for. The bill also directs the FAA to deploy advanced airport surface technology to prevent collisions.

Efforts to improve aviation safety in the United States have gained renewed urgency after a series of near-miss incidents, as well as the mid-air emergency involving an Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 9 flight in January.

FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker said the bill “allows for more runway safety technology, more air traffic controllers and stronger oversight of aircraft manufacturing.”

The bill would also allow Boeing to build the 767 freighter in the U.S. for five more years until 2033, exempting it from efficiency rules that take effect in 2028.

The bill aims to address a shortage of 3,000 air traffic controllers by directing the FAA to implement improved staffing standards and hire more inspectors, engineers and technicians.

The bill does not raise the mandatory pilot retirement age to 67, as House lawmakers tried to do last year, and retains pilot training requirements.

Congress will not set minimum seat size requirements and will instead leave it up to the FAA. The bill would require the Department of Transportation to create a table showing consumers the minimum seat size for each U.S. airline.

Lawmakers also rejected many other consumer provisions sought by the Biden administration, including compensation for delays caused by long air travel, as in Europe.

The bill reauthorizes the National Transportation Safety Board and increases staffing at the safety investigation agency. It also seeks to increase the acceptance of drones and flying air taxis into national airspace, and extends the current government’s anti-drone powers until October 1.

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