Daines Applauds Passage of FAA Reauthorization

U.S. SENATE — U.S. Senator Steve Daines today helped pass critical legislation that will improve Montana air travel for passengers, pilots and the aviation industry.

The U.S. Senate today passed Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) extension through September 30, 2017 with a vote of 89-4. The House of Representatives unanimously passed this legislation on July 11, 2016. 

“This FAA reauthorization maintains Montana’s critical aviation infrastructure and access to affordable travel for hardworking Montana families,” Daines stated. “This bill continues to strengthen security and protect travelers at airports across the country.”

Daines secured the following provisions in the FAA reauthorization:

  • Eastern Montana: Maintains Essential Air Service (EAS) serving seven Montana communities.

  • Airport Improvement Program (AIP) which builds and maintains Montana’s critical aviation infrastructure such as runways.
    • Includes language that ensures if small airports see a decrease in enplanements for a year, they don’t lose AIP dollars.

  • 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
    • o   Most recently, bringing American Airlines service from Bozeman to Dallas – as well as Missoula and Billings last week.
  • 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.
  • Includes 3rd class medical reform provisions originally included in the Pilots Bill of Rights 2.
  • Requires marking of towers under 200 feet tall, important to the ag aviation community.
  • Makes drone interference with wildfire suppression or other emergency services a crime.
  • Creates a working group to improve air service to small communities.

Bolsters aviation security:

  • Strengthens security for foreign airports by requiring comprehensive security assessments for all overseas airports serving the United States
  • Expands the TSA PreCheck program by directing TSA to partner with the private sector to develop enhanced enrollment and vetting methods. TSA can strengthen securit by identifying trusted travelers, while also increasing operational efficiency of checkpoints by providing expedited screening to more passengers. – includes a Daines amendment to leverage existing airport resources to enhance PreCheck enrollment.
  • Optimizes checkpoints by redeploying certain TSA personnel and assessing TSA’s staffing allocation model, in order to reduce passenger wait times while enhancing security effectiveness.
  • Tightens the access controls and employee vetting standards for aviation workers with access to secure and sterile areas of airports, in order to mitigate the insider threat to aviation security.