Posts Tagged ‘FAA’

AFL-CIO TTD’s letter petitions U.S. DOT for passenger face mask mandate

Larry Willis, president of the AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department, of which the SMART Transportation Division is a member, sent the following letter on July 27 petitioning Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao to issue a regulation requiring passengers to wear masks as the COVID-19 national emergency continues. The letter is reproduced below. The request also has been detailed in an article by The Washington Post.

Dear Secretary Chao:

On behalf of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD) and our 33 affiliated unions across the transportation industry[1], I write today to petition the Department of Transportation (DOT) to expeditiously promulgate regulation to mandate the usage of masks or face coverings for passengers traveling with DOT-regulated commercial transportation providers during the course of the Presidential Declaration of Emergency for COVID-19.[2]

Since the pandemic began, over four million Americans have been infected with COVID-19, and approximately 150,000 have tragically lost their lives. Despite this, thousands of workers in the passenger transportation industry have continued to go to work on planes, buses, ferries, and trains in increasingly dangerous conditions. Regrettably, these employees have not been spared the effects of the disease, and each TTD union involved in passenger transportation has reported infections and deaths among their frontline workers.

While these bus drivers, pilots, flight attendants, train crews, ferry operators, and others are faced with an impossible choice every day between risking their health and losing their livelihood, we acknowledge that the irreplaceable services they provide must continue to keep the U.S. economy running. Unfortunately, efforts to protect these employees from inherently hazardous workplaces and the threat of deadly communicable disease have been limited to a patchwork of state or local mandates, and a deeply inadequate federal response consisting of non-mandatory guidance.

These limited mandates from non-federal jurisdictions are helpful, but are limited in scope and impact. To date, barely half of states have enacted mandatory mask requirements in public, while the country is continuing to set global records on new infections per day.[3] [4] The COVID-19 pandemic has become a national crisis, and it is time that it receives a strong national response. The federal government is uniquely positioned to address this problem, particularly as it relates to a multimodal transportation system stretching coast to coast, connecting millions of travelling Americans. Not only does DOT have the ability to ensure uniform safety standards across transportation workplaces, it also provides enforcement capabilities that cannot be replicated by public or private transportation providers alone.

As cases continue to soar, it is thus incumbent on DOT to take decisive action to protect frontline transportation workers from the spread of COVID-19 through a regulatory mandate on passenger mask usage.[5] DOT has already acknowledged the utility of such prophylactic measures, including recommending that transportation providers follow CDC guidelines [6] and additional publications of modal-specific recommendations.[7] Today we request that DOT move beyond guidance and adopt actual mandates to keep transportation workers safe on the job. This regulation should require that passengers wear masks covering the nose and mouth while on board buses, trains, airplanes, and passenger vessels, as well as in boarding areas and associated facilities including airports and stations. The regulation should also make clear that a transportation provider has an obligation to refuse to transport any passenger who is unwilling to comply for reasons unrelated to a disability that would prevent them from doing so.

Established and non-rebuttable scientific evidence makes clear the value in a passenger mask mandate. Many passenger transportation workers work in high-risk enclosed environments, like airplanes, airports, buses, stations, and trains, where the benefits of social distancing or outside airflow are impossible. For these employees, mandated masks are the best available defense against COVID-19 transmission.

A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that speaking just two words, less than a passenger might speak to a flight attendant or Amtrak conductor taking tickets, generates numerous particle droplets between 20 to 500 micrometers, but that the use of a covering blocked nearly all of them.[8] In another study, researchers determined that widespread mask use, even the use of homemade masks, could drastically reduce COVID-19 transmission and prevent future “waves”. [9]

Topically, a letter to the editor from a pair of Chinese researchers discusses a case study of a COVID-19 positive passenger utilizing bus services. In the case, an individual began to feel symptoms while riding a motorcoach but did not don a face mask. Following this trip, at least five other passengers out of 39 tested positive. The individual then boarded a minibus, this time wearing a mask. Out of 14 passengers on that bus, zero tested positive.[10] While anecdotal, this and a number of further epidemiological case studies point to the efficacy of wearing a mask to reduce transmission from COVID-19 positive individuals.

This research and these findings hardly stand alone—the scientific community writ large has nearly universally come to the determination that extensive use of face masks provides extremely meaningful protection from transmission. The efficacy of mask usage is also borne out by the mitigation successes of several countries with high levels of mask compliance, such as Japan, South Korea, and Thailand. It is therefore unsurprising that this level of mask use is now recommended in numerous CDC guidance documents.

However, non-mandatory guidelines and a patchwork of mandates or additional guidelines from private companies, states, and other jurisdictions have failed to achieve the level of mask usage that is necessary. A recent Gallup poll found that only 44% of Americans reported always using a mask while outside the home, while 30% reported never doing so. Continuing to put transportation employees in harm’s way by failing to promulgate mandates will only ensure additional spread of COVID-19 and the preventable deaths of members represented by TTD unions. For this reason, DOT must immediately proceed with a mandate.

We believe strongly that DOT has the broad authority to take this action to improve workforce health and safety for thousands of workers. Further, examples of regulatory and statutory authorities for a mandate to protect workers from dangerous health conditions exist across modal agencies.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has clear statutory authority for promoting safe flight of civil aircraft in air commerce, including mandates to protect occupants of aircraft from risks and hazards (49 USC 44701, 44703, 44507). FAA also has existent regulation concerning passengers traveling with communicable diseases, and as recently as 2006 explicitly stated that “in light of the statutory duties described above, the FAA has determined that it is a public health authority.”[11] In totality, these and other items speak to the appropriateness of the actions we request in this petition.

Similarly, FRA’s recent System Safety Program rulemaking sets requirements for passenger rail carriers to create plans to reduce hazards for employees, defined as “as any real or potential condition that can cause injury, illness, or death; damage to or loss of a system, equipment, or property; or damage to the environment”. [12] The Federal Transit Administration uses a similar definition within the context of its Public Transportation Agency Safety Plans contained at 49 C.F.R. 673. In both circumstances, the established role of DOT in combating illness in the workplace is evident.

While the listed citations and agencies are not meant to be exhaustive, they are clear demonstrations that various justifications for a passenger mask mandate exist across DOT agencies, and that any determination otherwise is based in a deliberate and improperly narrow reading of both statute and regulation.

In recent testimony to a House of Representatives panel, GAO’s Director of Physical Infrastructure Heather Krause also offered the opinion that DOT has a clear leadership role to play in combating COVID-19, when speaking on the subject of the DOT/FAA’s efforts in the development of a national aviation-preparedness plan, stating that:

“We continue to believe that DOT would be in the best position to lead the effort because FAA and DOT have stronger and deeper ties to, as well as oversight responsibility for, the relevant stakeholders that would be most involved in such a broad effort, namely airlines, airports, and other aviation stakeholders”.

We agree strongly with the Government Accountability Office’s statement, and believe that DOT is the appropriate body to implement a passenger mask mandate, stemming from both its existing authorities and its particular knowledge of, and connection to, the affected sectors.

While it is our hope that DOT accepts our petition, we also note that due to the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic, proceeding expeditiously in order to reduce spread and fatalities is of the utmost importance. Unlike in normal circumstances, it is simply not viable to proceed with a standard rulemaking process over the course of months, if not years. Therefore we also call for DOT to exercise its authority under Section 553(b)(3)(B) of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), suspending notice and comment period and proceeding to an immediately effective Interim Final Rule. As required by the APA, we believe a rapid response to the pandemic meets the statutory threshold of a “good cause” and that going through normal procedures would be “impracticable, unnecessary, or contrary to the public interest.”

To date, TTD and our affiliate unions have filed a number of petitions and requests with DOT and its modal agencies on numerous issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic. We are disappointed that the Department has not taken affirmative actions on these items and continue to believe that these requests are warranted by existing conditions in the transportation industry. We appreciate DOT’s consideration of this petition and hope that the Department will begin to take the necessary steps to protect transportation workers. We look forward to working with the agency to protect the frontline workforce and the traveling public from COVID-19 infection.

Sincerely,

Larry I. Willis
President, AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department

PDF Version

[1] Attached is a list of TTD’s 33 affiliated unions.

[2] To include, but not limited to travel provided by an air carrier (as defined in 49 USC 40102), a passenger vessel operator, a commuter authority or intercity passenger railroad, a transit agency, a school bus operator or a motorcoach operator, and at related facilities such as airports and stations.

[3] https://www.cnbc.com/2020/07/20/more-than-half-of-us-states-have-statewide-mask-mandates.html

[4] https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2020/07/18/892677119/world-sets-daily-record-in-new-coronavirus-cases

[5] TTD acknowledges reasonable exceptions for individuals who are unable to wear a mask due to a disability or documented medical condition.

[6] For example, FRA Safety Advisory 2020–01; FTA Safety Advisory 20-01

[7] For example, FTA’s COVID-19 Resource Tool; FAA’s May 2020 Safety Alert for Operators

[8] Anfrinrud, Phillip, et al, Visualizing Speech-Generated Oral Fluid Droplets with Laser Light Scattering, New England Journal of Medicine, May 21, 2020.

[9] Stutt, Richard, et al, A modelling framework to assess the likely effectiveness of facemasks in combination with ‘lock-down’ in managing the COVID-19 pandemic, Proceedings of the Royal Society, June 10, 2020.

[10] Liu X, Zhang S. COVID-19: Face masks and human-to-human transmission, Influenza Other Respir Viruses. April 5, 2020.

[11] 71 FR 8042

FAA allocates $205 million for infrastructure grants to small airports

WASHINGTON – U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao announced the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has awarded $205 million in supplemental funding for infrastructure grants to small airports in 34 states. More than half of these airports serve rural communities and mostly general aviation. This funding is in addition to the $3.31 billion already awarded in regular Airport Improvement Program (AIP) funding during fiscal year 2018.

This $205 million in Airport Improvement Program grants directly addresses the need for improved aviation infrastructure – especially in rural communities,” said Secretary Chao.

This first increment of supplemental funding provides grants to projects at 37 airports. These projects include runway reconstruction and rehabilitation, and the maintenance of taxiways, aprons and terminals. The construction and equipment supported by this funding increases the airports’ safety, capacity and related issues. These improvements could support further potential growth and development within each airport’s region.

Congress provided the supplemental funding through the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018. The FAA published a Federal Register notice July 9, 2018, which explained the statutory rules, evaluation criteria and the submission process. The remainder of the $1 billion will be awarded during fiscal years 2019 and 2020, based on requests submitted by October 31.

Under the Secretary’s leadership, the FAA is administering the supplemental program in coordination with the regular annual AIP grant program to strengthen the safety and efficiency of America’s airports. U.S. infrastructure, especially its 3,300 airports increases the country’s competitiveness and improves the traveling public’s quality of life. According to the FAA’s most recent economic analysis, U.S. civil aviation accounts for $1.6 trillion in total economic activity and supports nearly 11 million jobs.

The statute’s requirements include:

  • Requiring the FAA to give “Priority Consideration” to specific airports (smaller and more rural airports);
  • For grants awarded to non-primary airports, the funds will cover 100 percent of eligible costs (so these airports do not have to provide a local match); and
  • The FAA administering the program over fiscal years 2018 to 2020.

In the March 2018 omnibus funding bill, Congress provided historic levels of funding for infrastructure investments across America. Following the increase in funding this fiscal year, the Department will invest $10 billion in new transportation infrastructure. The Department is committed to rebalancing investment in historically-neglected rural America.

The list of grants, including the supplemental and regular AIP grant awards, is here:
https://www.faa.gov/airports/aip/aip_supplemental_appropriation/

FAA refuses to regulate seat size and legroom on planes

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) was ordered by a judge in 2017 to address the issue of airlines shrinking the sizes of seats and legroom in order to add more seating on planes. The FAA has responded by ruling that seat shrinkage does not affect passenger safety and so they will not be setting limits on legroom or seat width.

“The FAA has no evidence showing that current seat dimensions hamper the speed of passenger evacuation, or that increased passenger size creates an evacuation issue,” an FAA spokesman told MarketWatch. “During an evacuation, passengers stand up in just a few seconds, which is less time than it takes for emergency exits to begin functioning and for the line that begins forming in the aisle to clear.”

NBC’s Today show reported on July 10 that U.S. airlines are planning to reduce their restroom sizes by three inches in an effort to add yet another seat.

Click here to read the full story from MarketWatch.

DOT shakes up FAA with new appointees

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao has announced that Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Deputy Administrator Daniel K. Elwell will serve as Acting FAA Administrator upon the conclusion of Administrator Michael Huerta’s term. Huerta’s term ended at midnight on Jan. 7, 2018.

“Our nation is grateful for Administrator Huerta’s service to the FAA and his commitment to aviation safety,” Chao said of Huerta.

Elwell

Elwell was appointed the FAA Deputy Administrator in June 2017. Elwell took office at 12:01 a.m. on Jan. 7. He was replaced as deputy administrator by Carl Burleson, the deputy assistant administrator for policy, international and environment in an acting capacity. FAA’s Deputy Assistant Administrator for Information and Technology Tina Amereihm has taken over as FAA chief of staff, replacing Chris Rocheleau. Rocheleau was recently named as executive director for international aviation.

Elwell has a wealth of experience with the FAA and other agencies, having held various positions such as FAA assistant administrator for policy, planning and environment from 2006 – 2008; senior vice president for safety, security and operations at Airlines for America from 2013 to 2015; and vice president of the Aerospace Industries Association from 2008 – 2013.

Elwell also served the airline industry as a commercial pilot for 16 years with American Airlines. He is also a former U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonel who saw combat during the Operation Desert Storm conflict.

Senate Appropriations Committee passed 2018 transportation funding bill

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Senate Committee on Appropriations approved the FY2018 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, July 27, which prioritizes funding for critical transportation projects, community development initiatives and core housing programs that serve the nation’s most vulnerable individuals.

The bill provides $60.058 billion, $2.407 billion above FY2017 enacted levels, to fund the U.S. Department of Transportation, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and related agencies. The bill was passed unanimously, 31-0.

The committee-passed bill places a priority on programs to improve the safety, reliability and efficiency of the nation’s transportation system, including increased funding for the TIGER grant program. The measure also emphasizes rental assistance and community development, providing funding for the Community Development Block Grant, HOME, and other programs.

“Our economy and the well-being of the American people benefit from responsible investments in American infrastructure and community development. This bill continues federal funding to support these objectives,” said Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran (R-Miss.). “Senators Collins and Reed have worked to balance national priorities within budget constraints. I am pleased to recommend this bill to the Senate.”

“This bipartisan bill is the product of considerable negotiation and compromise, and makes the necessary investments in our nation’s infrastructure, helps to meet the housing needs of the most vulnerable among us and provides funding for economic development projects that create jobs in our communities,” said U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine), chairman of the Senate Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Subcommittee. “Our bill strikes the right balance between thoughtful investment and fiscal restraint, thereby setting the stage for future economic growth.”

Transportation Funding Highlights:

Transportation – $19.47 billion in discretionary appropriations for the U.S. Department of Transportation for fiscal year 2018. This is $978 million above the FY2017 enacted level.

•    TIGER Grants – $550 million, $50 million above the FY2017 enacted level, for TIGER grants (also known as National Infrastructure Investments).

•    Highways – $45 billion from the Highway Trust Fund to be spent on the Federal-aid Highways Program, consistent with the FAST Act. The bill also continues to allow State Departments of Transportation to repurpose old, unused earmarks for important infrastructure projects.

•    Aviation – $16.97 billion in total budgetary resources for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), $563 million above the FY2017 enacted level. This will provide full funding for all air traffic control personnel, including more than 14,000 air traffic controllers, and more than 25,000 engineers, maintenance technicians, safety inspectors and operational support personnel.

The bill also provides $1.1 billion for the FAA Next Generation Air Transportation Systems (NextGen), and fully funds the Contract Towers program to help ease future congestion and help reduce delays for travelers in U.S. airspace. In addition, the bill rejects the proposed privatization of the air traffic control system and provides greater flexibilities for airports to make much-needed capacity improvements.

•    Rail – $1.974 billion for the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), $122 million above the FY2017 enacted level. This includes $1.6 billion for Amtrak for the Northeast Corridor and National Network, continuing service for all current routes. The bill also provides $250.1 million for FRA safety and operations, as well as research and development activities.

The bill also provides $92.5 million for the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvement grants program, of which $35.5 million is for initiation or restoration of passenger rail, $26 million for Federal-State Partnership for State of Good Repair grants, and $5 million for Restoration and Enhancement grants.

•    Transit – $12.129 billion for the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), $285 million below the FY2017 enacted level. Transit formula grants total $9.733 billion, consistent with the FAST Act. The bill provides a total of $2.133 billion for Capital Investment Grants (“New Starts”), fully funding all current “Full Funding Grant Agreement” (FFGA) transit projects, which is $280 million below the FY2017 enacted level.

•    Maritime – $577.6 million for the Maritime Administration, $55 million above the FY2017 enacted level, to increase the productivity, efficiency and safety of the nation’s ports and intermodal water and land transportation. The Maritime Security Program is funded at $300 million.

The bill includes $32 million for State Maritime Academies (SMAs), and an additional $50 million for the National Security Multi-Mission Vessel. This training ship is essential for the SMAs to continue to provide the nation with a strong merchant marine workforce.

•    Safety – The legislation contains funding for the various transportation safety programs and agencies within the U.S. Department of Transportation. This includes $908.6 million in total budgetary resources for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and $744.8 million for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Of this amount, $68 million is to complete the modernization of border facilities to improve inspections along the Southern border. The bill also includes $272 million for the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to help address safety concerns related to recent pipeline and crude oil by rail accidents.

Click here to read the full press release from the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations.

House Appropriations Committee releases details of 2018 transportation funding bill

On July 10, the House Appropriations Committee released the fiscal year 2018 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development funding bill, which includes funding for the Department of Transportation (DOT), the Department of Housing and Urban Development and other related agencies.

Although the bill will fund many important transportation projects and agencies, including Amtrak, at the same time it eliminates funding for DOT’s TIGER grant program and prohibits any funding for the ongoing California high-speed rail project.

Tiger grant defunded

In effect since 2009, the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant program provides funding to improve safety and economic opportunity. It has supported innovative projects including multi-modal and multi-jurisdictional projects and has improved access to reliable, safe and affordable transportation for communities.

Since the program’s inception, the TIGER grant program has provided a combined $5.1 billion to 421 projects in all 50 states and U.S. territories. Demand is high in the TIGER grant program and 2016 saw requests that far exceeded the available funds allotted to the program.

If the House Appropriations bill passes as is, this valuable and much sought after program will be eliminated.

SMART TD reaction to bill

“These levels of funding for Amtrak are significant compared to the White House’s disastrous plan to eliminate long distance trains,” said John Risch, SMART TD national legislative director. “There is still a long ways to go in the process. We will continue to work with the entire House and Senate to strike the awful language regarding California high speed rail and try to get increased funding for both transit and passenger rail.

“In North Dakota, there is a nasty big-truck provision in the bill that would increase allowable truck weights to 129,000 lbs. – that needs to be removed,” Risch continued. “North Dakota’s roads and bridges are already being pounded by oil industry trucks and this terrible idea makes it final that passage road conditions will get far worse.”

Transportation Funding Highlights

Department of Transportation (DOT) – The bill includes $17.8 billion in discretionary appropriations for the Department of Transportation for fiscal year 2018. This is $646 million below the fiscal year 2017 enacted level and $1.5 billion above the President’s request. In total budgetary resources, including offsetting collections, the bill provides $76.7 billion to improve and maintain our nation’s transportation infrastructure.

The bill targets funding to programs and projects that will increase efficiency, safety, reliability and quality of life for the traveling public, and that will help improve commerce and economic growth.

  • Air – Included in the legislation is $16.6 billion in total budgetary resources for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) – $153 million above the fiscal year 2017 enacted level and $435 million above the request. This will provide full funding for all air traffic control personnel, including 14,500 air traffic controllers, 7,400 safety inspectors and operational support personnel. The bill also builds on several years of increased funding by providing over $1 billion for the FAA’s Next Generation Air Transportation Systems (NextGen), and funds Contract Towers at $162 million. These investments will help ease future congestion and help reduce delays for travelers in U.S. airspace. In addition, the bill does not include new passenger facility and general aviation fees.
  • Highways – The bill allows $45 billion from the Highway Trust Fund to be spent on the Federal-aid Highways Program, which is $968 million above the fiscal year 2017 level. This funding mirrors the authorized levels and will provide much needed growth and improvements within America’s highway system.
  • Rail – The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is funded at $2.2 billion, $360 million over the fiscal year 2017 enacted level and $1.1 billion above the request. The bill provides a total of $1.4 billion for Amtrak, of which $328 million is for the Northeast Corridor grants, and $1.1 billion is to support the national network. The bill also continues to require overtime limits for Amtrak employees to reduce unnecessary costs. Rail safety and research programs are funded at $258.3 million, equal to the fiscal year 2017 enacted level. This will fund inspectors and training, plus maintenance and safety investments to the physical rail infrastructure, to help ensure the safety of passengers and local communities. The bill also provides funding for two authorized grant programs. It funds the Federal-State Partnership for State of Good Repair grants at $500 million, which will address some of the $38 billion backlog on the Northeast Corridor – needs that must be addressed simply to sustain current rail services. In addition, the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements Grants are funded at $25 million, a reduction of $43 million from the fiscal year 2017 enacted level. Eligible activities include capital and safety improvements, planning, environmental work and research. The bill prohibits funding for high speed rail in California, the California High Speed Rail Authority, and for FRA to administer a grant agreement with the Authority that contains a tapered match. The bill prohibits the Surface Transportation Board from taking action regarding the construction of high-speed rail in California unless the Board has jurisdiction over the entire project.
  • Transit – The bill provides $11.75 billion in total budgetary resources for the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) – $662 million below the fiscal year 2017 enacted level and $526 million above the request. Transit formula grants total $9.7 billion – consistent with the authorization level – to help local communities build, maintain and ensure the safety of their mass transit systems. Within this amount, $1.75 billion is included for Capital Investment Grants, and $1 billion for “Full Funding Grant Agreement” (FFGA) transit projects. Core capacity projects receive $145 million in the bill, $182 million is included to fund all state and local “Small Starts” projects, and $400 million is included for new projects that provide both public transportation and inner-city passenger rail service. These programs provide competitive grant funding for major transit capital investments – including rapid rail, light rail, bus rapid transit and commuter rail – that are planned and operated by local communities. Bill language limits the federal match for New Starts projects to 50 percent.
  • Maritime – The legislation includes $490.6 million for the Maritime Administration, $31.9 million below the fiscal year 2017 enacted level. This funding level will continue to increase the productivity, efficiency and safety of the nation’s ports and intermodal water and land transportation. The Maritime Security Program is funded at the full authorized level of $300 million.
  • Safety – The legislation contains funding for the various transportation safety programs and agencies within the Department of Transportation. This includes $927 million in total budgetary resources for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) – an increase of $15 million over the fiscal year 2017 enacted level – and $758 million is included for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), $113.6 million above the fiscal year 2017 enacted level.  Also included is $268 million for the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), an increase of $3.7 million over the fiscal year 2017 enacted level.
  • Grants – The legislation eliminates National Infrastructure Investment grants (also known as TIGER grants), which were funded at $500 million in fiscal year 2017.

Click here to read the full press release from the House Appropriations Committee.

Airlines and Republicans place profit over safety; seek to cut pilot in-flight training hours

On July 6, 2017, the Chicago Tribune reported that regional airlines are working to reduce pilot in-flight training hours from the 1,500-hour requirement, through a provision that could be attached to the upcoming Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Bill.

A senate committee panel recently advanced the measure along party lines with Republicans voting in favor, 14-13. U.S Senator Tammy Duckworth (D – Ill.), Iraq War Veteran, Purple Heart recipient and combat pilot for the Illinois National Guard, staunchly opposes the measure, and is quoted in the article.

Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, the US Airways pilot who heroically landed his aircraft in the Hudson River in 2009, is also adamantly opposed to the measure and voiced his opposition.

While SMART TD membership is predominately comprised of railroad and bus members, SMART TD also represents airline pilots, co-pilots, flight attendants and baggage handlers.

Click here to read the entire article.

U.S. Senator John Thune, R – S.D., introduced the provision. Click here to voice your opposition to Senator Thune.

Click here to visit the SMART TD Legislative Action Center to contact your legislative representatives to voice your opinion about this bad idea, and others that affect the safety of our membership and the safety of all Americans.

FAA issued final rule on small airplane safety certification standards

Rule will streamline approval of new technologies

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a final rule that overhauls the airworthiness standards for small general aviation airplanes. This innovative rule will reduce the time it takes to move safety enhancing technologies for small airplanes into the marketplace and will also reduce costs for the aviation industry.

“Aviation manufacturing is our nation’s top export and general aviation alone contributes approximately $80 billion and 400,000 jobs to our economy,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “The FAA’s rule replaces prescriptive design requirements with performance-based standards, which will reduce costs and leverage innovation without sacrificing safety.”

FAA’s new Part 23 rule establishes performance-based standards for airplanes that weigh less than 19,000 pounds with 19 or fewer seats and recognizes consensus-based compliance methods for specific designs and technologies. It also adds new certification standards to address general aviation loss of control accidents and in-flight icing conditions.

“The rule is a model of what we can accomplish for American competitiveness when government and industry work together and demonstrates that we can simultaneously enhance safety and reduce burdens on industry,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta.

The rule responds to the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 and the Small Airplane Revitalization Act of 2013, which directed the FAA to streamline the approval of safety advancements for small general aviation aircraft. It also addresses recommendations from the FAA’s 2013 Part 23 Reorganization Aviation Rulemaking Committee, which recommended a more streamlined approval process for safety equipment on small general aviation aircraft.

The new rule also promotes regulatory harmonization among the FAA’s foreign partners, including the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), Transport Canada Civil Aviation (TCCA), and Brazil’s Civil Aviation Authority (ANAC).  This harmonization may help minimize costs for airplane and engine manufacturers and operators of affected equipment who seek certification to sell products globally.

The rule affects airplane manufacturers, engine manufacturers, and operators of affected equipment. Click here to learn more from the FAA and industry about the benefits of streamlined certification.

This regulatory change is a leading example of how the FAA is transforming its Aircraft Certification Service into an agile organization that can support aviation industry innovation in the coming years. The Service is focused on using risk-based oversight to refresh the certification strategy, investing in management systems to improve performance, and improving the overall organization.

The rule will be effective eight months from publication in the Federal Register.

THUD allocates $56.5 billion to fund transportation

The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) passed $56.5 billion legislation to fund its programs for Fiscal Year (FY) 2017. The bill includes several positive allocations for rail:

  • $1.7 billion for the Federal Railroad Administration –  $76 million above FY 2016 enacted level
  • $525 million for TIGER Grants – $25 million above FY 2016 enacted level
  • $2.3 billion for Capital Investment Grants (New Starts) — $161 million above FY 2016 enacted level
  • Amtrak: $345 million for the Northeast Corridor and $1.075 billion for the National Network – total $30 million above FY 2016 enacted levels
  • New passenger rail grant programs created under FAST Act: $50 million for Consolidation Rail and Infrastructure and Improvement grants; $20 million for State of Good Repair grants; and $15 million for Restoration and Enhancement grants

The Senate also passed legislation that would reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) through FY 2017. The legislation would authorize the appropriation of $155 million from the Airport and Airway Trust Fund for the Essential Air Service (EAS) for each of the FYs 2016 and 2017.

Both pieces of legislation face more hurdles before they become law, but we are pleased that they include positive developments for our rail and air members.

Great Lakes asks FAA for more plane seats

Great_Lakes_Airlines_logo_150pxCHEYENNE, Wyo. – Passengers who fly Great Lakes Airlines could see a big change if the Federal Aviation Administration approves a request from the Cheyenne-based regional carrier.

Officials at Great Lakes Airlines want all 19 passenger seats aboard their Beechcraft 1900D turboprops available for use.

Only nine passenger seats are available on each aircraft now. In March 2014, the FAA allowed Great Lakes to remove 10 seats from each of these airplanes.

Read more from The Wyoming Tribune Eagle.

County backs flight rule change

Great Lakes airplaneScotts Bluff County has joined Gering in requesting the Federal Aviation Administration change its regulation that increases the number of flying hours pilots must have for commercial flights.

In 2013, the FAA increased the number of flight hours are required to fly larger aircraft from approximately 200 to 1,500. That has caused a shortage of pilots for smaller airlines.

“Pilots will usually come out of flight school with about 250 to 500 hours of flight time and they can go to work for a smaller airline,” said Darwin Skelton, Manager of the Western Nebraska Regional Airport. “With the increase to 1,500 hours, new commercial pilots can’t fly anymore.”

Read more from the Gering Citizen.

House approves six-month FAA funding extension

faa_logoThe House approved a bill on Monday to extend federal aviation funding, which is currently set to expire on Wednesday, until March 2016. 

The measure, introduced on Friday by House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R – Pa.), was approved by the lower chamber on a voice vote Monday afternoon in an effort to prevent an interruption in the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) funding midweek. 

The quick House action follows an earlier Senate effort to attach the FAA funding extension to a bill to prevent a government shutdown on Oct. 1 that failed last week. 

Read more from The Hill