Senate Approves FAA Bill, Rejecting Repeal Of The National Mediation Board Rule

 

 
 
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Senate Approves FAA Bill, Rejecting Repeal Of The National Mediation Board Rule

By Mike Mitchell
 

February 8, 2012 - The Senate approved a long-term compromise by a 75-20 vote that will keep the Federal Aviation Administration running and hundreds of thousands of Americans working. This agreement will create or save more than 280,000 jobs, modernize America's aviation system, and improve safety for air travelers. 

The Senate rejected the House effort to repeal the National Mediation Board (NMB) rule that ensures that only those votes cast in a union election are counted as well as other anti-labor efforts. 

The bill will require the NMB to hold a public hearing when they engage in an informal rulemaking, which codifies the past practice of the agency; and modify the NMB election procedures so that when there are multiple unions seeking to represent workers the two top vote-getters appear on the ballot in a runoff election. 

Airports across the U.S. will also finally transition from World War II-era navigational technology to cutting-edge GPS technology reducing delays, making our skies safer, and making airlines more fuel-efficient. The FAA reauthorization makes a number of funding commitments to foster stability and growth in the nation’s aviation system.

The bill will authorize approximately $15.9 billion annually through the end of FY 2015, provide funding required for the FAA to modernize the air traffic control system and mandate the development of precision navigation procedures at the nation’s largest 35 airports by 2015 that will help significantly reduce congestion, delay, fuel consumption, and air carrier costs. 

Safety has been a top priority in the negotiating process. The FAA reauthorization will require better safety oversight of foreign repair stations, improve safety for helicopter emergency medical service operations, strengthen the inspection of airline operations and initiate better processes for tracking and investigating operational errors. 

The FAA reauthorization includes several provisions to modernize the nation’s air transportation system, and to ensure that the FAA implements the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) in a timely and effective manner. 

 

The bill will establish clear deadlines for the adoption of existing NextGen navigation and surveillance technology, create an “Air Traffic Control Modernization Oversight Board” to provide better oversight of FAA’s modernization programs; and mandate development of precision navigational procedures at the nation’s top 35 airports by 2015 that will help significantly reduce congestion, delay, fuel consumption, and air carrier costs. 

Key provisions in the bill have been included to strengthen the federal government’s commitment to small community air service.  The bill will preserve the Essential Air Service program, which provides subsidized service to rural airports across the country that otherwise would not receive any scheduled air service. The bill allows for more long-distance flights in and out of National Airport by authorizing a total of 8 additional round-trip flights from National Airport to beyond-perimeter locations. 

The Coalition of Airline Pilots Associations, representing over 28,000 commercial airline pilots, applauds the passage of an FAA Reauthorization Bill, the first since 2007. “While still trying to understand how exempting the most fatigued pilot group –the all-cargo pilot- from the new Flight Duty and Rest Regulations enhances aviation safety, we are now faced with battery regulation that doesn’t adequately safeguard our cargo pilots, ” said Captain Carl Kuwitzky, president of CAPA. 

The Bill prevents the FAA from mandating tighter controls on lithium batteries beyond International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Technical Instructions unless U.S. or foreign air-accident investigators produce “a credible report” that lithium batteries “substantially contributed” to an aircraft fire. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) released a listing of 118 such incidents in May of 2011. 

“The FAA’s own model predicts the loss of 4-5 cargo aircraft over the next ten years due to the bulk carriage of lithium batteries, and somehow that is acceptable’? In September 2010 a UPS 747 was lost near Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE). The initial accident report from the UAE General Civil Aviation Investigation focused on lithium batteries and resulted in four safety recommendations; all of which dealt with the carriage of lithium batteries. 

 
   
The ICAO technical instructions would do nothing to help prevent that accident again. Primary, non-rechargeable lithium based batteries were banned from passenger aircraft by emergency order in 2004. The list goes on and on, yet Congress fails to step up and allow for regulation of this hazardous cargo. CAPA has long supported “One Level of Safety,” a level which must include all-cargo carriers in the rules they fly under, and the cargo they carry.

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