Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Boozman Hails Passage of Bill to Increase Consumer & Safety Protections for Air Travelers

Comprehensive bill includes Boozman-authored language to help general aviation pilots

WASHINGTON –U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) today joined his Senate colleagues to pass a comprehensive Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill that increases consumer protections, strengthens air traveler security and improves international competitiveness of aerospace manufacturing.

“This bill has been called ‘one of the most passenger-friendly’ FAA reauthorizations in years and it’s easy to see why. In an era when air travel has become increasingly frustrating, this bill will upgrade the experience from the moment a traveler books a flight on through to landing at his or her destination,” Boozman said.

Among the new consumer protections included in the FAA reauthorization are requirements that airlines disclose fees to consumers, provide refunds for delayed baggage and return fees for purchased services (like seat assignments and early boarding) that are not received. The bill directs the Department of Transportation (DOT) to review how airlines provide information on decisions to delay or cancel flights that may be fully or only partially due to weather and it requires airlines to provide families with information about the availability of seats together at the time of booking.

The bill includes several measures to bolster airport security. It expands enrollment in the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) Pre-Check program so passengers can move through security lines more quickly, improves airport employee vetting to ensure dangerous individuals don’t have access to secure areas and enhances security for international flights bound for the United States. It also improves cybersecurity and furthers the modernization of the air traffic control system.

“The recent attack on the Belgium airport is a tragic reminder that radical Islamic terrorists remain committed to attacking our commercial airlines and our bustling transportation hubs. Passage of this bill shows that the Senate is committed to taking responsible steps to prevent these types of attacks from happening here at home,” Boozman said.

The bill also increases international competitiveness of aerospace manufacturing, including manufacturers in Arkansas, like Falcon Jet, by improving the certification process. It ensures strengthened funding for Arkansas airports, including an additional $400 million authorization for the nationwide airport improvement program (AIP). It also maintains access to our nation’s aviation system for millions of Americans in rural areas by reauthorizing the Essential Air Service (EAS) Program and the Small Community Air Service Development (SCASD) Program.

Boozman noted that he is particularly pleased that the FAA reauthorization includes language he authored that allows pilots to fly many types of small, light aircraft without a third class medical certificate. The light-sport aircraft program has demonstrated that these changes can occur without compromising safety.

“Thousands of pilots, including many from Arkansas, have asked the FAA to expand the light sport aircraft medical exemption to cover additional small aircraft. I am pleased that my commonsense solution to this problem has been incorporated into the FAA reauthorization,”

Boozman’s language requires pilots to undergo a flight review by a certified flight instructor every two years. During these flight reviews, instructors will continue to evaluate each pilot’s physical and cognitive condition, as well as his or her ability to safely operate an aircraft. Small aircraft pilots would be required to maintain a valid driver’s license. Limited medical examinations by a personal physician will be required once every four years, but the requirements will be much less burdensome.

Boozman’s language provides limited medical examinations, but the requirements will be much less burdensome, and additional tools and training will be provided to ensure that pilots are safe to fly. Boozman’s efforts have garnered the support of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) and the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA).

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