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Booker Successful in Fighting for Key Provisions to FAA Bill to Improve Air Travel for New Jerseyans

March 17, 2016
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WASHINGTON, DC - This week, the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation voted on the reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), legislation that included several key provisions put forth by U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ). These provisions would assist air travelers with disabilities, advance the commercial use of drones, and help ensure adequate air traffic control staffing levels at high density airports, such as Newark. The legislation (S. 2658) reauthorizes the FAA for 18 months and provides increased funding levels for fiscal year 2017.

"This legislation represents an important step forward for our airports, consumers, and U.S. innovation. I am proud to have fought for the inclusion of several key provisions to better the consumer experience and maintain our role as a global leader in aviation, safety, and new technologies," said Sen. Booker, a member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.  "From protecting the rights and prioritizing the needs of travelers with disabilities, to ensuring our region's airports are adequately staffed, to advancing commercial use of drone technology, this bipartisan legislation will help improve our nation's aviation system. While more work remains to be done, I was pleased to partner with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to advance these important goals. I am steadfastly committed to continuing to move the ball forward on these and other priorities."

Sen. Booker was successful in advocating for provisions that help improve accessibility for persons with disabilities traveling through our nation's commercial air system. Specifically, the legislation instructs the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) to conduct a study of airport accessibility best practices for individuals with disabilities, requiring the GAO to prepare a report for Congress on air carrier training policies related to assistance for persons with disabilities, and establish an advisory committee for the air travel needs of passengers with disabilities. Obtaining this data will help fuel effective policies that enhance the traveling experience for persons with disabilities, and remove barriers to access.

Sen. Booker was also successful in promoting policies that create safe and reasonable guidelines for U.S. businesses to utilize drone technology. The United States is lagging behind international innovators in this technology, partly because of the strenuous bans placed on responsible, U.S. commercial users. Sen. Booker's amendment would create a rule to allow for the commercial use of "micro" unmanned aircraft systems, which are drones under 4.4 pounds. Drone technology is being used internationally to enhance search and rescue activities, deliver humanitarian aid, and enhance research and data collection. This amendment helps create a framework that will put U.S. commercial users on par with the international community.

As part of his continued efforts to address delays at our region's airports, Sen. Booker was also able to put forth amendments that were included in the bill to ensure adequate staffing levels at the Newark air traffic control tower. In addition, Sen. Booker was also able to secure a study of the New York and New Jersey airports that will assist in making informed decisions about how best to address staffing issues in the future.

Additional provisions in the FAA reauthorization on which Booker worked and will benefit New Jerseyans include:

  • Boosting the Sharing Economy: Senator Booker joined Senator Daines (R-MT) in advancing a study to assess safety issues and regulatory barriers to "flight sharing," the concept of allowing general aviation pilots to share flights and costs with fellow travelers.

 

  • Improving Staffing at Newark Airport: The legislation includes two Booker amendments aimed at improving staffing levels at high density airports, including Newark. The first directs the FAA to ensure adequate staffing levels at high density airports and the second orders a study of staffing levels of New York and New Jersey aiports, which represent the most congested airspace in the country. Further data will help identify even more solutions to this ongoing challenge.

 

  • Advancing NextGen Technology: Senators Booker and Daines passed an amendment to require performance standards for NextGen, helping to promote this essential safety technology.

  • Increasing Carrier Competition: Senator Booker worked with Senator Cantwell on her provision that will open additional flight slots at Newark Airport, thus increasing competition and providing greater flight options for consumers. 

 

  • Strengthening the Role of the Hughes Technical Center: This legislation outlines a greater role for designated UAS test sites including the William J. Hughes Technical Center in Atlantic City, NJ. The technical center plays a critical role in advancing aviation safety and R&D. Senator Booker had previously introduced the Commercial UAS Modernization Act, which included similar provisions.