House Transportation Committee to Consider FAA Reauthorization Bill; Includes Provisions Authored by Rep. Lipinski (February 8, 2016)

This Thursday, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is scheduled to consider the Aviation Innovation, Reform, and Reauthorization (AIRR) Act that would extend the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) funding until 2022.  As the most senior member from Illinois on the committee, and a member of the Aviation subcommittee, Congressman Dan Lipinski (IL-3) has worked hard to include a number of important provisions in the bill, which was introduced by Committee Chairman Bill Shuster.

The bill includes language from Lipinski that allows the FAA to conduct a pilot program that will allow air traffic controllers to remotely direct air traffic at airports by way of strategically placed cameras.  This legislation could benefit airports such as the Lewis University Airport in Romeoville, which is considering a remote tower. 

“I continue to work with the Joliet Regional Port District, Lewis University Airport, and local elected officials to bring a tower to the airport,” said Rep. Lipinski.  “My language in this bill will provide Lewis University Airport with the option of pursuing a remote tower if it is determined that that is the best option for the airport.” 

The proposed reauthorization bill also includes a variation of legislation originally authored by Lipinski that would allow passengers on domestic flights to recoup their checked baggage fees if the airline does not deliver their luggage in 24 hours.  The clock on the 24-hour period would begin at the time of the arrival of the flight of the passenger at the destination at which the passenger was to retrieve the checked baggage.  Lipinski’s bill set a much shorter time period for triggering a refund and he will continue to fight for this. 

“Right now, passengers who go through the inconvenience of lost and delayed baggage do so without the right to a refund,” stated Lipinski.  “My legislation is just common sense.  If you pay for a service, you should get that service or get your money back.”

Additionally, the bill bans cell phone calls on flights.  After proposed rules by the Department of Transportation and Federal Communications Commission would have permitted voice calls, Lipinski led a bipartisan letter signed by 77 members of Congress to protest this decision.  These rules were delayed by his efforts and his request to continue the ban was heeded.

The bill also contains a provision that would remove the operation and management of U.S. Air Traffic Control (ATC) from the FAA.  As it currently stands, the bill would create a federally chartered, fully independent, not-for-profit corporation to operate and manage the ATC.  This would be a major change to the current system.   

“Presently, the United States boasts the safest and most efficient aviation system in the world, but progress on NextGen, an effort to move the air traffic system from the ground-based radar system to a satellite-based system, has been delayed considerably,” said Lipinski.  “The impetus for the creation of this not-for-profit corporation is said to be an effort to move NextGen forward more quickly.  While I agree that we need to get this new technology implemented as soon as possible, I have significant concerns about whether moving ATC from the FAA to an independent corporation is the right path to take for our nation.  I look forward to learning more about this just-unveiled proposal.”

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