We’ll be up in the air for another year.
An aviation bill headed to President Obama will favorably affect Alaska, its pilots and passengers.
Of particular interest to Alaskans, the FAA Extension, Safety and Security Act of 2016 provides for the Essential Air Service program. This program ensures commercial air service into small communities.
The bill also reserves about half of the air traffic controller spaces at FAA training academies for qualified veterans and graduates of the collegiate training initiative. The University of Alaska is one of 36 CTI schools nationwide.
The bill allows particular recreational pilots to fly without a medical certificate under specific conditions. One condition is that they possess a valid driver’s license. Another is that they have had a medical certificate in the past 10 years.
A U.S. Department of Transportation working group will be established to improve air service to rural communities, according to the bill. The group will work on such issues as expanding rural pilot training opportunities.
Nationally, the bill also has significant effects. It will increase canine patrols at airports, grow the precheck program to reduce waiting times, increase airport worker vetting requirements, strengthen mental health screening for pilots, eliminate drone conflicts within the aviation industry, adopt drones as part of disaster responses, increase traveling ease for travelers with disabilities, and require airlines to reimburse baggage fees in cases of lost or unreasonably delayed baggage.
In addition, the bill funds maintenance of the nation’s aviation infrastructure, and it will provide for increased security at foreign airports where passengers undergo screening and board flights to the United States.
This is an annual bill that authorizes funding for the FAA, and, this time around, the funds will carry it through September of 2017.
In basic terms, this bill speaks directly to most Alaskans in that aviation is a lifeline in Alaska. It is what Alaskans depend upon to get into, out of and around the state.
We couldn’t, and wouldn’t want to, do without it. President Obama has only to sign it to keep us up in the air.
— Ketchikan Daily News,