February 14, 2012 - The Federal Aviation Administration Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 that President Obama signed into law today, while not perfect, is a groundbreaking accomplishment for the U.S. airline industry. After 23 short-term extensions, the $63.4 billion authorization funds the agency through 2015.
The long-term legislation promotes modernizing the nation’s air transportation infrastructure and empowers the industry to safely build capacity and efficiency, positioning the United States to compete with other countries that are also moving to modernize. Equally important, the funding commitment and policy direction embodied in the law drive new research and technology innovation while enhancing proven safety programs that benefit ALPA members and better the industry.
FAA reauthorization advances ALPA priorities by
• Advancing NextGen—U.S. Air Transportation
Establishes deadlines for adopting existing NextGen navigation and surveillance technology and mandates development of precision navigational procedures at the nation’s 35 busiest airports by 2015
• Enhancing Runway Safety
Directs the FAA to develop and implement a plan to improve runway safety by reducing the number and severity of runway incursions and requires a plan to develop and install a system to alert pilots and controllers of potential runway incursions
• Making Laser Attacks on Aircraft a Federal
Expressly makes shining a laser pointer at an aircraft a federal crime, achieving a major component of ALPA’s action plan to safeguard the skies from laser attacks on aircraft
• Applying Flight- and Duty-Time Limits to
Tail-End Ferry and Maintenance Flights
Counts flight segments to reposition aircraft that may be added to the end of a pilot’s duty day toward flight-time limits by including Part 91 flights in flight-time limits under FAR 121
• Improving Safety of Lithium Battery Shipments
Gives the U.S. Department of Transportation the ability to regulate the air transport of lithium metal and lithium ion batteries more stringently than the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) technical instructions based on “credible reports” of safety incidents attributable to lithium batteries
• Continuing to Authorize Transpacific Alternate
Keeps the alternate airfield open on Midway Island, as well as airports in the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, and Palau, all of which are vital to safe long-range flight operations
• Strengthening Voluntary Aviation Safety Data
Enhances protections for data collected by the Aviation Safety Action Program, the Flight Operations Quality Assurance Program, Line Operation Safety Audits, and Safety Management Systems and voluntarily submitted to the FAA by mandating that the data cannot be released to the public unless it is completely deidentified.
• Studying Feasibility of Installing Flight Deck
Doors or Alternatives on All-Cargo Aircraft
Takes important action toward ALPA’s goal of enhancing all-cargo safety and security by funding studies on the feasibility of adding hardened cockpit doors or alternatives to all-cargo aircraft
• Opposing EU Environmental Trading Scheme for
In the legislation, Congress made clear its sense that the European Union should not extend its emissions-trading proposal to international civil aviation operations without working through the International Civil Aviation Organization
• Supporting Critical Aviation Safety Research
Directs the GAO to study the effectiveness of the FAA’s oversight of the use of new technologies to prevent or reduce danger from smoke in the cockpit. Supports weather research on icing, volcanic ash, and wake vortices. Continues authorization for research and development in areas of fire safety, airworthiness, aircraft catastrophic failure prevention, human factors, aeromedical, unmanned aircraft systems, Safety Management Systems, atmospheric hazards, airspace management, propulsion and fuel systems, and alternative jet fuel
• Expanding IRA Rollover Options for Airline
Employees During Bankruptcy
Expands choices for qualified airline employees who receive payments during airline bankruptcies to allow the funds to be considered an IRA rollover contribution
While ALPA would have preferred that the extraneous provision regarding National Mediation Board elections had not been included in the FAA reauthorization, a compromise agreement was necessary to allow the bill to move forward. The FAA reauthorization signed by President Obama protects the National Mediation Board rule change, which ensures that only actual votes cast in a representation election are counted. The law does not include any reference to decertification or judicial review nor will it change the way ALPA conducts its elections.
Today’s signing of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 is extremely important, but ALPA’s work is by no means done. The union will remain fully engaged with regulators, legislators, and all airline industry stakeholders to advance pilots’ goals in every aspect of aviation safety as we pursue the highest possible standards for the benefit of all who rely on air transportation.
A more detailed look at the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 will be included in the March 2012 issue of Air Line Pilot.