Larsen: We Could Be On The Floor Today To Enact Long-Term FAA Bill

Sep 28, 2015 Issues: Transportation

WASHINGTON D.C.— Rep. Rick Larsen, WA-02, the lead Democrat on the Aviation Subcommittee, delivered a speech on the House floor today about a six-month extension of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Larsen lauded the many bipartisan achievements the Subcommittee has agreed on for a long-term FAA extension thus far, while lamenting that an unnecessary proposal to privatize air traffic control is holding up the whole bill.

The House passed the FAA extension (H.R. 3614).

Watch the video of Larsen’s remarks here.

Full text of Larsen’s remarks as prepared for delivery are below.

Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of this temporary measure to extend the authorization of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), but I do so with great disappointment. We could be on the Floor today to enact a long-term FAA reauthorization bill.

In the last two years, the Aviation Subcommittee has held 16 hearings on a variety of topics. We have heard from stakeholders that there is a long list of things 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 bipartisan agreement on most of those major key issues that we need to address. 

That bill is ready to go.    

We didn’t hear during those many hearings that we need to privatize air traffic control. Some people want to privatize air traffic control – and I’m sure they do so in good faith that it will improve aviation.

But we don’t need to do it. And it’s preventing the things we do need to do from getting done.

An entire bipartisan bill is being held up simply because stakeholders can’t agree on the details of a complex, untested proposal to privatize air traffic control.

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. Of those 76, the overwhelming majority—64—said the FAA is capable of doing so.

Privatizing the current system is clearly not a pressing need. It’s a want.

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

The bipartisan portions of the bill Chairman Shuster, Chairman LoBiondo, Ranking Member DeFazio and I have agreed to would have immediate benefits in my home state of Washington, as well as for the entire U.S. economy. It would protect and create American jobs through airport construction and aerospace manufacturing; it would also improve aviation safety. 

It would improve the way that aircraft and parts are certified to get newer and safer technology to market in a faster way. It would build on the safety improvements this body made following the tragic Colgan Flight 3407 crash in 2009.

And it would improve the regulation and 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 will not 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 agreement. 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 five years and 23 short-term extensions. I had hoped we would avoid serial extensions this time around, but today we start down that path. So it is with disappointment that I am here to support a temporary extension.

I would strongly urge my Republican colleagues to make this the only temporary extension before enactment of a long-term bill.

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

Thank you, and I yield back.