Daines’ Bill: Stands Up for Montana Aviation Passes Senate

U.S. SENATE —Senator Steve Daines’ bill to improve Montana air travel for passengers, pilots and the aviation industry today passed the United States Senate. 

“The U.S. Senate took an important step forward in strengthening security for travelers and protecting American consumers’ best interests,” said Daines, Montana’s only member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. “I’ve secured many important bipartisan reforms that maintain Montana’s critical aviation infrastructure and affordable travel to rural Montana airports. I look forward to the House of Representatives adopting these reforms and having the President sign this comprehensive aviation security legislation into law.”

Daines secured the following provisions in the FAA reauthorization:

  • Eastern Montana: Maintains Essential Air Service (EAS) serving seven Montana communities.
  • Increases Airport Improvement Program (AIP) dollars which build and maintain Montana’s critical aviation infrastructure such as runways.
  • Butte, Kalispell, Bozeman, Missoula, West Yellowstone, Helena and Great Falls: Increases Small Community Air Service Development Grant Program (SCASDP) by $6M to $10M, leveraging federal dollars with local dollars, which has enabled expanded service, multiple awards to Montana airports:
    • Most recently, bringing American Airlines service from Bozeman to Dallas

  • Daines’ amendment to provide Helena with approach control radar coverage, which is one of only two FAA towered commercial airports in the nation without this radar coverage.

  • Daines’ amendment to hold those Federal employees responsible for NextGen implementation accountable for poor performance and delays.
  • Bozeman, Kalispell and Missoula airports: Daines’ amendment to protect contract towers and get the FAA to respond to airports when additional control staff and hours are needed.  
  • Eastern Montana: Daines’ amendment to prioritize NextGen implementation at public airports sharing airspace with military training and without radar – to protect Baker Municipal Airport and the airspace over Fallon, Custer, Big Horn, Rosebud, Powder River, Carter, and Treasure Counties, as well as Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation.
  • West Yellowstone: Daines’ amendment to increase flexibility of the “seasonal” definition at the West Yellowstone airport – may help increase number of flights and accessibility.
  • Protects Montana consumers by requiring refund of fees when services are not provided such as seat assignments, early boarding, carry-on bags, and baggage fees when bags are delayed.
    • Also requires notification to families of information on availability of seats together when booking tickets.
    • Also takes steps to help passengers with disabilities and certain medical conditions when traveling.
  • Safely incorporates Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) into the national airspace, removing current bureaucratic hurdles, allowing innovation and job creation in Montana.
    • Contains two Daines’ amendments to strengthen personal privacy protections for Montanans.
    • Strengthens privacy policies by requiring operators to disclose data deletion practices.
    • Permits exceptions to the requirement that all UAV operators be identified in an online database.
  • Helena: Increases the capacity and timeliness of FAA’s Aircraft Certification Service (AIR) which will expedite delays, allowing aviation manufacturers to quickly work off backlogs and be more competitive in the international market place.
    • Improves and protects jobs at the Boeing facility in Helena.
  • Address the pilot shortage which has caused regional carriers to delay and cancel flights in Montana as well as removing barriers to entry for general aviation
  • Includes Pilot Bill of Rights 2, which Daines is an original cosponsor.
    • Contains a Daines’ amendment getting the FAA to acknowledge the pilot shortage and encouraging the FAA to conduct outreach to elementary and secondary students to increase awareness and interest in aeronautical careers.

Daines’ efforts to secure much needed reforms to the FAA reauthorization were applauded across Montana:

Mike Tooley, Director, Montana Department of Transportation: “In a state the size of Montana, aviation plays a key role in connecting people and goods with the rest of the world.  The passage of this bill in the Senate brings us one step closer to receiving funding that is so critical to the maintenance and development of aviation infrastructure throughout the country.  Thanks to Senator Daines for his efforts in securing important funding for Montana airports.” 

Jeff Wadekamper, Airport Director, Helena Regional Airport Authority: “The Helena Regional Airport really appreciates the efforts of Senator Steve Daines and his staff to include language in the FAA Reauthorization Bill that is aimed to make aircraft operations more efficient at the Helena Regional Airport. This effort will provide an opportunity for the FAA to identify and install new equipment to improve radar coverage in the Helena area which will enhance safety and increase efficiency for all aircraft utilizing the Helena Airport.” 

Brian Sprenger, Airport Director, Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport: “We appreciate Senator Daines’ work in the Senate to provide consistent and stable funding for airports.  Montana becomes less remote when our airports are able to meet the needs of the flying public.” 

Dan Hargrove, Director of Aviation, Rocky Mountain College: “We need to address a shortage of pilots and other professionals to insure we maintain a safe and robust aviation system across our nation. Sen. Daines’ amendment pushes the FAA to address this shortage by engaging young Montanans and other young Americans and increasing awareness of rewarding aeronautical careers.” 

John McKenna, President, Recreational Aviation Foundation: “Montana aviation, all the way from the commercial passenger to the general aviation community will benefit. Especially important is the recognition that Sen Daines has given to the looming pilot shortage via his encouraging the FAA to conduct outreach to young people through the educational system to increase awareness and interest in aeronautical careers. In a state where aviation has always played a strong role and has such a rich history Sen Daines efforts are appreciated.”

Roger Meggers, Airport Manager, Baker Municipal Airport: “Baker Municipal Airport, as a public use airport, provides critical connectivity to eastern Montana. KBHK is essential for aerial pipeline patrols for the oil industry that are essential to protecting our environment.  For decades we have operated safely without radar coverage. As we now share the airspace with military training facilities, continuing safe operations is becoming more challenging. I thank Senator Daines for working hard to prioritize NextGen implementation at rural airports sharing its airspace with military operations, such as the Powder River Training Complex. This is an important step in keeping the “Big Sky” of Montana safe for aircraft operations and the safety of Montana’s residents.”      

Cris Jensen, Airport Director, Missoula International Airport: “As a relatively small community in western Montana that is dependent on air service, we are very happy to see the Senate Commerce Committee continue their efforts to pass a comprehensive bill reauthorizing the FAA.  We are particularly proud of the fact that our Senator Steve Daines has been a leading voice, drafting language to strengthen the Contract Tower Program and hold accountable those responsible for NextGen implementation.  Additionally, Senator Daines was a strong advocate for the Small Community Air Service Development Grant Program (SCASDP) which is a fiscally responsible way to garner local support and leverage local dollars to expand rural air service. This legislation will enhance the safety and efficiency of airports across Montana and America.”  

Cindi Martin, Airport Director, Glacier Park International Airport: “The 18-month FAA reauthorization bill approved by the Senate Commerce Committee today is a welcome stop-gap measure by our lawmakers. This is a pivotal time in aviation and the need for a long-term transformational FAA reauthorization bill will require a great deal of time & discussion within the industry. Today’s bill will allow airports to maintain and develop infrastructure necessary to support current and growing aviation demand. We are grateful of Senator Daines’ keen understanding of the challenges facing our industry and those unique to Montana airports, and, we his efforts to address them head-on.”  

John Faulkner, Airport Director, Great Falls International Airport: “The Great Falls International Airport really appreciates Sen. Daines’ efforts to reauthorize the FAA.  The timing of this reauthorization is critical, particularly for those airports located in the north, so that grant funds are received in time for our short construction season.   Projects like the major runway renovation that GTF is undertaking this summer require every day of good weather we can give to the construction teams.  Approval of this important piece of legislation provides certainty that the $10 million project can be completed this year.  Nearly 200,000 passengers flow through GTF each year; FAA funding is essential to providing them safe and modern infrastructure.”