VIDEO: Sen. Reed spoke about the measure before flying back to Washington, DC yesterday

WASHINGTON, DC – After a turbulent legislative ride that included four short-term extensions, Congress passed the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill (HR 3935), sending it to President Biden’s desk ahead of a May 17 deadline.  The U.S. Senate passed the bill on May 9 in a 88-4 vote and it was approved 387-26 today by the U.S. House of Representatives.

U.S. Senator Jack Reed voted in favor of the measure to reauthorize the FAA at $105 billion over five years.  He helped include priorities aimed at improving aviation safety; protecting consumers, passengers, and airline workers; and overhauling the aircraft certification process.

“This is a victory for passengers, consumers, and enhanced air safety.  Rhode Island airports, especially Rhode Island T.F. Green International Airport, will benefit from this bill and it should help improve service and safety for travelers everywhere,” said Senator Reed, a senior member of the Appropriations subcommittee that oversees FAA funding.

Reed noted the long-term reauthorization includes a $600 million annual boost for the Airport Improvement Program (AIP), lifting AIP investments from $3.4 billion to $4 billion annually.  This federal funding is critical for Rhode Island T.F. Green International Airport and other local small airports.  Last year the Rhode Island Airport Corporation (RIAC) received $30.9 million in AIP funding.

“The Rhode Island Airport Corporation welcomes the passage of a bipartisan Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill,” said Iftikhar Ahmad, President and CEO of the Rhode Island Airport Corporation. “Thanks to Senator Reed’s leadership, this five-year reauthorization will strengthen our state and National aviation systems and authorize increased funding for vital airport infrastructure projects and safety investments for years to come.”

The bill also authorizes critical funds to hire more air traffic controllers and make technology improvements; codify the U.S. Department of Transportation’s recent rule requiring airlines to make it easier for stranded air travelers to get a refund; and enact other key measures to improve runway safety and avoid near-collisions.

Senator Reed says the final bill also includes measures designed to protect airline employees from assault, including both passenger service agents and flight attendants.  The bill will also help create new pathways for veterans to become aircraft technicians and grows the veteran pilot pool.  And it requires the FAA to establish a new system for continuous aircraft tracking, including the altitude, location and identity of high-altitude balloons.

“From stronger safety standards to making it easier for customers to get a refund from the airlines to preventing air traffic control staffing shortages, this bill will go a long way to delivering for the American people and making air travel safer and more efficient,” said Senator Reed.

The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2024 authorizes more than $105 billion for the Federal Aviation Administration and $738 million in appropriations for the National Transportation Safety Board for fiscal years 2024 through 2028, including:

  • $66.7 billion for FAA operations to fund key safety programs, from aircraft certification reform to air carrier oversight, and enable hiring, training, and retention of safety-critical staff like air traffic controllers and technical engineers.
  • $17.8 billion for FAA facilities and equipment to fund modernization of key technologies and systems to ensure the resilience and development of the world’s most complex airspace system.
  • $19.35 billion for FAA airport infrastructure improvement grants to support more than 3,300 airports nationwide in meeting increasing demand and integration of emerging technologies.  This includes $4 billion a year for boost authorizations for the Airport Improvement Program to improve aviation infrastructure, a major increase for a program that’s been authorized at $3.4 billion annually for the past decade.
  • $1.59 billion for FAA research, engineering and development to help America stay competitive in the global race for innovative and sustainable aerospace technology.

In debating this bill in the Senate, several other issues related to aviation safety were discussed on the Senate floor, including the number of flights landing at National Airport (DCA) in Washington, DC, which experienced a recent near-miss on its runway.  Senator Reed supported a proposal to vote on an amendment by Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Mark Warner (D-VA) that would prioritize passenger safety over adding more flights to National Airport’s busy runway.  However, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) blocked a vote on the amendment.

The FAA’s current authorization dates back to 2018, when the most recent long-term reauthorization bill was passed.

President Biden has signaled that he will sign the bill into law.