WASHINGTON–The U.S. Senate today passed a comprehensive, bipartisan bill that enhances aviation safety and airport security. The bill includes a provision authored by U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) that requires the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to reform general aviation medical standards.
The bill, which passed the House of Representatives earlier this week, extends the FAA’s operational authority through September 30, 2017. It enhances air safety and infrastructure security by:
- Streamlining and improving the air traffic controller hiring process;
- Requiring comprehensive security assessments for all overseas airports serving the U.S.;
- Authorizing training, screening equipment donation and cargo program certification for overseas airports to bolster the security standards for flights headed to the U.S.;
- Requiring a comprehensive strategic framework to identify and address cybersecurity threats to the aviation system;
- Strengthening mental health screening for pilots; and
- Expanding the Transportation Security Administration’s Pre-Check program so passengers can move through security lines more quickly.
“As we witnessed with the recent attack at the Istanbul airport, the aviation sector remains a target for terrorists,” Boozman said. “The safety and security provisions in this bill will help protect air travelers from the time they enter an airport on through to their final destination.”
Boozman authored a provision in the bill that allows pilots to fly many types of small, light aircraft without a third class medical certificate. The existing light-sport aircraft program has demonstrated that these changes can occur without compromising safety.
“These reforms are necessary because the FAA has stalled on its pledge to eliminate bureaucratic barriers that ground capable aviators. Over the last decade, 60,000 pilots left the industry, many due to the costly and time consuming process of obtaining paperwork that FAA has acknowledged needs to be changed. Inclusion of my provision in this bill ensures that we can provide safety and eliminate these burdens which have proven unnecessary,” Boozman, a co-chair of the Senate General Aviation Caucus, said.
Under Boozman’s language, pilots will undergo an initial medical evaluation, but it will be easier to maintain their flight status. Pilots will continue to undergo a flight review by a certified flight instructor every two years. During these flight reviews, instructors will still evaluate each pilot’s physical and cognitive condition, as well as his or her ability to safely operate an aircraft. Small aircraft pilots would be required to maintain a valid driver’s license. Limited medical examinations by a personal physician will be required once every four years, but the requirements will be much less burdensome.
Boozman’s efforts have garnered the support of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) and the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA).
While Boozman’s language has previously passed the Senate, inclusion of it in this bill marks the first occasion where it also has been passed by the House. The bill is now headed to the President’s desk where it is likely to be signed into law.