The previous FAA Authorization expired on September 30. At that time, President Joe Biden signed a bipartisan Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the federal government through Nov. 17, 2023 and extend Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) authorization through December. As the clock ticks towards the end of the year, what’s happening with FAA Reauthorization 2023?
In a recent interview with New York’s Spectrum News, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg urged Congerssd to move beyond political “games” and pass FAA Reauthorization before year end.
“It’s important for there to be stable funding, predictable funding, and really try to protect our aviation system from some of the political games that are playing out on Capitol Hill right now,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said.
Buttigieg was commenting on the need for more air traffic controllers and supporting staff, to enable safe and efficient air travel.
“The U.S. aviation system accounts for about 5% of the entire American economy,” he explained. “Making sure that air travel is safe, making sure that the growth in air travel is supported, these are all things that are at stake in FAA reauthorization. It can also have a big effect on the passenger experience.”
Manned aircraft travel is not the only issue at stake in FAA Reauthorization. For the drone industry, forward movement on critical regulation including flight beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) is tied to the package, which in its current form would require the FAA to issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on BVLOS flight within 4 months of the bill’s enactment.
S. 1939, or the Senate FAA Reauthorization Act of 2023, was introduced June 13, 2023: but has still not moved beyond the initial stages. At the end of November, Republican Sen. John Thune of Dakota said in an interview that a deal was in the works to resolve the disagreement over pilot training requirements that has stalled further discussions of the bill.
What Happens if FAA Reauthorization is Not Passed Before the Extension Runs Out?
If the FAA Reauthorization Act is not passed by the time the current extension expires, it could lead to a series of significant consequences. One of the immediate impacts would be a partial shutdown of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). This implies that certain services and operations may be suspended until the Act – or yet another extension – is passed.
The repercussions of such a situation extend to the employees of the FAA as well. Essential employees, including air traffic controllers, would be required to continue their work without pay. On the other hand, non-essential workers at the FAA would face furloughs. This could potentially put a significant strain on an already stressed system.
Moreover, the FAA’s ability to collect aviation trust fund (ATF) revenues would be compromised. These revenues encompass various taxes including the ticket tax, gas tax, and international travel tax. The drone industry could also face setbacks as the team that grants waivers, authorizations, and advances complex operations may not be available. Lastly, the lapse in the Act could halt airport improvements. It’s important to note that these are potential consequences and the actual impact may vary depending on the specific circumstances at the time of the lapse – but a lapse in funding is clearly not a desirable outcome for the FAA, the drone industry, or the US consumer.
Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has penned over 3,000 articles focused on the commercial drone space and is an international speaker and recognized figure in the industry. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.For drone industry consulting or writing, Email Miriam.
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