Hoeven: Senate Passes New $33 Billion FAA Reauthorization Bill, Measure Includes Hoeven Legislation

Senator's Amendments Will Extend Unmanned Aerial Systems Test Sites for 5 Years, Strengthen Research & Development at UND

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven today announced that the Senate has passed the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization, which includes Hoeven legislation that will extend congressional authorization for the nation’s six unmanned aerial systems (UAS) test sites, including the Northern Plains UAS Test Site in Grand Forks, for five years. A second Hoeven measure will strengthen UAS Research and Development at the University of North Dakota.

The legislation authorizes $33.1 billion in funding for FAA programs through September 30, 2017, and passed with a bipartisan majority by 95 to 3.

“The importance of robust support for FAA programs can’t be overstated, especially for a geographically large state like North Dakota,” Hoeven said. “From support for airport improvements to consumer protection to unmanned aerial systems, the legislation will improve service and safety for the traveling public and ensure that test sites like the Northern Plains UAS Test Site continue to advance their mission of integrating UAS into the National Airspace.”

Supporting UAS Test Sites, including Grand Forks’ Northern Plains UAS Test Site

The measure extend for five years congressional authorization for the nation’s six unmanned aerial systems (UAS) test sites tasked with integrating UAS into the National Airspace. Under current law, the test sites’ authorization expires next year, on September 30, 2017. The test sites have already made remarkable gains, such as nighttime operations, flying multiple aircraft in the same airspace and researching and testing aircraft up to 1,200 feet. Nevertheless, there’s much left to do, and that will require investment and support from industry partners. Those partners will be much more likely to use the FAA test sites if they can be sure those sites will be operational beyond the end of Fiscal Year 2017.

Support for UAS Research and Development at UND

The Senate also approved a second amendment offered by Hoeven and Senator Thad Cochran to strengthen existing UAS research programs, including the FAA’s Center of Excellence on UAS (COE) which is led by the University of North Dakota (UND) and Mississippi State University. The amendment instructs the FAA Administrator to leverage to the maximum extent possible the capabilities of the UAS COE and the test sites when establishing standards for UAS safety and certification of UAS aircraft. The COE, established in May 2015, is responsible for researching and developing technologies and policies for the use of UAS in the United States.


Enhances Airport Security:

• Improves requirements and background checks for airport employees with access to secure areas. It also expands the use of random and physical inspections of airport employees in secure areas and requires a review of perimeter security.
• Expands the TSA Pre-Check program to help reduce crowds waiting for security screening by vetting more passengers before they arrive to get them through checkpoints quickly.
• Authorizes TSA to donate unneeded security equipment to foreign airports with direct flights to U.S., permitting more cooperation between U.S. and partner nations to protect routes flown by Americans.
• Expands the number of Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR) teams to enhance the security presence in pre-screening airport areas and other transportation facilities and increases preparedness for active shooter incidents.

Strengthens Consumer Protections:

• Creates a standard method for airlines to disclose additional fees
• Requires the airlines to refund baggage fees for delayed baggage
• Requires airlines to automatically return fees for services purchased but not received
• Increases accessibility for families when flying by allowing families to purchase seats next to each other, and allowing family members to accompany minors through the airport security screening process.

General Aviation:

• Includes the bipartisan Pilot’s Bill of Rights 2, which reforms the Third Class Medical Certificate process for non-commercial pilots.

Airport Improvement Grants:

• Supports jobs and improves safety with increased infrastructure investment by authorizing funding for the Airport Improvement Program at $3.75 billion.
• Provides Regulatory Relief to Small Airports by directing AIP funds to certain small airports based on the number of passenger boardings and if the airport meets certain requirements.
• Directs the FAA to review its scheduled construction projects so that projects in states like North Dakota where the weather during a typical calendar year prevents major construction projects from being carried out before May 1 are reviewed as early as possible