Congress Holds A Hearing: More Talk, More Distraction

Despite the fact that we are in the last days of a lame duck Congress, the House of Representatives is closing the year on a strong note, with a hearing at 10 a.m. this morning on the FAA’s UAS integration efforts.  The hearing will be live streamed, and can be viewed HERE.

The Subcommittee on Aviation wants to “hear about the state of the emerging UAS industry including safety of flight, technological issues, the regulatory environment, policy considerations, potential commercial applications and United States’ competitiveness.”  The Subcommittee will receive testimony from a wide range of witnesses, including Peggy Gilligan, the FAA’s Associate Administrator for Aviation Safety, Matthew Hampton, an Assistant Inspector General for Aviation Audits, Dr. Gerald Dillingham, Director of Civil Aviation Issues with the GAO, and Captain Lee Moak, President of the Air Line Pilots Association.

According to a pre-hearing memorandum issued by the Subcommittee, it appears we can expect to hear testimony on a number of issues.  In particular, the Subcommittee appears eager to hear more from the Inspector General’s office concerning their previous report that it will be virtually impossible for the FAA to meet the “statutorily mandated” September 2015 deadline for integration of UAS into the national airspace.

There will also be testimony on the current Section 333 Exemption process.  The Subcommittee notes that the first seven petitions by the film makers were granted within 120 days, but there are currently 160 petitions pending, and the Subcommittee wants to hear testimony on whether that 120 day goal can be met going forward.

Another expected hot spot for the Subcommittee will no doubt be the status of the UAS test sites.  The test site program was created by Congress, but not funded.  As a result, the initiative has been criticized by the DOT IG as unfocused, uncoordinated, and lacking any goals.

Finally, based on the Subcommittee’s memorandum, there will be a discussion of the model aircraft rules and their interaction with the Pirker appeal.  This will, no doubt, dovetail into a discussion of the FAA’s UAS enforcement efforts and what steps the FAA will be taking to curtail the growing number of near-misses reported with conventional aircraft.

We here at Plane-ly Spoken will be tuning in to the hearing, and we will bring you our analysis of the testimony when it is over.

(Originally posted December 9, 2014)

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