Plane-ly Speaking About the PLANE Act of 2019 – Part II

In Part I of this post, we described various provisions in the Promoting the Launch of Aviation’s Next Era Act of 2019 (the PLANE Act of 2019), S. 2198,  as introduced by Senators Inhofe (OK) and King (ME) on July 23.  There we focused on Title I of the bill, “Fairness for Pilots,” (sections 101 to 105).  In this post, we focus on provisions in the other five titles of the bill that will also be of considerable interest to our readers.

Title II — Forward Looking Investment in General Aviation, Hangers, and Tarmacs (“FLIGHT Act”) (sections 201-206)

  1. General aviation public-private partnership program

If enacted, section 201 would establish a 5-year general aviation pilot public-private partnership program for improving facilities at general aviation airports and privately-owned airports used or intended to be used for public purposes and that do not have scheduled air service.  No more than four airports in each State may participate in the pilot program with a cap of $500,000 in FAA funding available to each airport in any fiscal year.  The provision authorizes $5,000,000 to be appropriated out of the Airport and Airway Trust Fund for each of the fiscal years 2020-2025.  Eligible activities for funding include leveraging private sector investments or developing public-private partnerships for building or improving hangers, business, or other airport facilities; funding studies that consider various measures an airport should take to attract private sector investment; or participating in a public-private investment.

  1. General aviation airport entitlement reform

Section 202 would increase the FAA’s share of allowable project costs from 90 percent to 95 percent for a general aviation airport if it determines that a project at an airport that is not a primary airport will increase safety or security at the airport or the airport is categorized as a basic or unclassified airport in the FAA’s 2012 report on General Aviation Airports: A National Asset.

  1. Disaster Relief airports

Section 203 would permit the FAA to designate as a “disaster relief airport” an airport categorized as a “regional reliever airport” in the FAA’s 2016 report, National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems (NPIAS) 2017-2021; is within a “reasonable distance … of a hospital or transplant or trauma center; “is in a region … prone to natural disasters; has a paved runway capable of supporting aircraft up to 12,500 pounds and aircraft maintenance or serving facilities; and has adequate taxi and ramp space to accommodate engine or light multi-engine aircraft for loading and unloading.

  1. Airport development relating to disaster relief

Section 204 describes the types of activities related to planning, acquisition, or construction of disaster relief airports that would be eligible for FAA airport development grant funding.

Title III — Securing and Revitalizing Aviation (“SARA Act”) (section 301)

Section 301 would preclude from civil liability any individuals designated to act as a representative of the FAA Administrator in accordance with 14 CFR part 183, subpart C, when carrying out duties with reasonable care within the United States or its territories in accordance with their designation.  The designated individuals specified in the part 183, subpart C, are: aviation medical examiners; pilot examiners; technical personnel examiners; designated aircraft maintenance inspectors; designated engineering representatives; designated manufacturing inspection representatives; and designated airworthiness representatives.

Title IV – Air Traffic Controller Reforms (sections 401-402)

Section 401 would require the FAA Administrator to designate all “necessary” employees at the agency’s Aeronautical Center in Oklahoma City as “excepted employees” in the event of a lapse in appropriations.  The purpose of this language would ensure that the Academy remains open during a government shutdown for continued training of air traffic controllers (ATCs).

Section 402 would direct the FAA Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee to review all FAA regulations and policies related to the training of ATC tower operators and submit its recommendations to the FAA.  The Committee’s recommendations would address ways to modify existing requirements and policies to prepare and better utilize approved air traffic collegiate training initiative school graduates and other qualified air traffic control program graduates for work at ATC contract towers.  The Committee’s would also recommend changes that incorporate classroom, simulation, and on-the-job training for applicants applying for an initial facility rating.

Title V – Aviation Fuel Taxes (section 501)

Section 501 would make a number of Internal Revenue Code technical changes to the rate of tax for certain aviation fuels and specify that tax receipts from aviation fuels be deposited in the Airport and Airway Trust Fund.

Title VI – Voluntary Surrender of Repair Station Certificate (section 601)

This provision would require the FAA to publish a notice of proposed rulemaking and a subsequent final rule to restore aeronautical repair stations’ ability to surrender voluntarily and unilaterally their certificate of operation without the requirement for FAA acceptance of the certificate surrender.  The requirement was added to 14 CFR §145.55 in 2014 in response to National Transportation Safety Board Recommendation A-04-02.  The NTSB recommended that the FAA issue a rule “to prevent individuals who have been associated with a previously revoked repair station from continuing to operate through a new repair station.”  Section 601 would also require the FAA to include in its rulemaking provisions to prevent an individual who “materially contributes to the revocation of a repair station certificate” from reentering the repair station industry and authorizes a repair station that terminates an individual who materially contributes to the revocation to reapply for a certificate.

As we stated in Part I of this post, although it remains unclear whether the press of other legislative business during the current Congressional session allows adequate time for full consideration of the PLANE Act, we will continue to monitor and report on any future Congressional actions regarding the legislation.

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