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Rick L.
Democrat WA 2

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  • Airport and Airway Extension Act of 2015

    by Representative Rick Larsen

    Posted on 2015-09-28

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    LARSEN of Washington. Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of the temporary measure to extend the authorization of the FAA today, but I do so with great disappointment. We could be on the floor today to enact a longer term FAA reauthorization bill.

    In the last 2 years, the Subcommittee on Aviation, led by my colleague from New Jersey, Mr. LoBiondo, has held 16 hearings on a variety of topics. We have heard from stakeholders that there is a long list of things that we need to do to stay competitive with our economic rivals and keep our airspace the safest and most efficient in the world: We need to reform aircraft certification so that manufacturers can get the newest, safest equipment to market.

    We need to set clear rules for unmanned aerial vehicles and accelerate efforts for their safe use.

    We need to advance NextGen programs to move air traffic faster and more efficiently.

    Chairman Shuster, Chairman LoBiondo, Ranking Member DeFazio, and I have achieved a bipartisan agreement on most of these major key issues that we need to address. That bill is ready to go.

    We didn't hear during these hearings that we needed to privatize air traffic control. Now, some people want to privatize air traffic control. I know that they want to do this in good faith. But we don't need to do it, and it is preventing the things that we need to do from getting done.

    An entire bipartisan bill is being held up because we can't agree yet on the details of what would be a very complex proposal. I fail to understand why at this juncture such a proposal is necessary, particularly when it prevents significant and much-needed reform from taking place.

    There is no dispute that today we safely operate the most complex and congested airspace in the world. Last year the Government Accountability Office asked 76 aviation stakeholders whether the FAA is capable of operating an efficient air traffic control system. The overwhelming majority, 64 of those, said the FAA is, in fact, capable of doing so. Privatizing the current system is clearly not a pressing need. It is a want.

    I wish I could say today I am surprised that we find ourselves here today, but many people have been saying for a long time that this was the situation that we would be facing on September 30. In fact, when we held a hearing on air traffic privatization back in March, I predicted we were headed down this road of multiple short-term reauthorizations.

    The bipartisan portions of the bill that Chairman Shuster, Chairman LoBiondo, Ranking Member DeFazio, and I have agreed to would have immediate benefits all over the country.

    In my home State of Washington, it would protect and create American jobs through airport construction and aerospace manufacturing; it would improve aviation safety; it would improve the way the aircraft and parts are certified to get newer and safer technology to market; it would build on the safety improvements that this body has made following the tragic Colgan flight 3407 in 2009; it would improve the regulation and the development of unmanned aerial systems, which continue to proliferate in our airspace.

    We need a strong regulatory system in place to safely grow the unmanned aircraft industry, and until we act, that system cannot be in place. For every day of this extension, travelers and the aerospace industry will not receive the improvements and protections that we have crafted in the bipartisan portions of the bill that we are close to agreeing on. We will continue to fall behind other countries that are making similar improvements.

    As many lawmakers and aviation stakeholders recall, the last FAA reauthorization bill came after a period of 5 years and 23 short-term extensions. I had hoped we would avoid serial extensions this time around, but today we start down that path.

    Yes, it is with disappointment that I am here to support a temporary extension and strongly urge all my colleagues to make sure this is the only temporary extension before enactment of a long-term bill.

    We have a long list of things that we need to do today to improve our airspace. We should focus on those things instead of the things only that we want to do.

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