An overwhelming US House vote of 351-69 on July 20 provided for a smooth landing of the Securing Growth and Robust Leadership in American Aviation Act (HR 3935), a bill to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and aviation safety and infrastructure programs for the next five years.

 [Editor’s note: a “best”/most current available version can be accessed here]. 

 The legislation contains provisions on a number of training and safety topics frequently addressed in CAT and at Halldale’s World Aviation Training Summit (WATS).     

 No Change to 1500-Hour Rule

The original House bill contained a provision to retain the 1500-hour rule for US pilot qualification, but permit 250 hours to be completed in simulators and 150 of those hours in a full-flight simulator. On the evening of July 19 the House passed an amendment offered by Rep. Nick Langworthy (R - New York) to strip the language from the House bill that allowed the additional flight simulator time to count toward the training requirement – retaining current pilot training rules. 

At issue remains the continued advocacy of Senators Krysten Sinema (I - Arizona) and John Thune (R - South Dakota), and others in the upper chamber of Congress to permit more simulator time to count toward the total hours. Sen. Tammy Duckworth remains a key proponent of both maintaining the 1500-hour benchmark, and, indeed, strengthening the live training piece of this rule

Sharp division also remains among other aviation community stakeholders on altering the 1500-hour rule, with, for instance, the Regional Airlines Association (RAA) continuing to advocate migrating more hours into training devices.   

Raising Pilot Retirement to 67

The House version of the bill raises the retirement age for US pilots to 67. This legislative-directed workforce change advances in this congressional cycle through increasing turbulence. The Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) vigorously opposes raising the retirement age from 65 to 67. Conversely, the RAA and many airline executives support the bump-up in retirement age.  

Other Training and Safety Provisions

Another provision in this bill requires the FAA to issue rules for certifying pilots for powered-lift aircraft (i.e., capable of vertical takeoff and landing, eVTOL) and operational rules for powered-lift aircraft.

The bill also directs the FAA to increase air traffic controller hiring targets.

The July 20 legislation also establishes a workforce development program to support the education, recruitment, and retention of aviation professionals.

Reauthorization, Senate Version 

The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation must still pass its version of the FAA Reauthorization Bill and send it on the wider Senate for a vote. 

Work on the Senate’s bill is expected to resume next week, ahead of the upcoming August summer recess. There was no mention of a hearing or vote on the bill as of July 20 afternoon on the committee’s website

The final House and Senate bills will then enter the conference process. 

Conceptually, the FAA Bill is due on President Biden’s desk not later than this September 30, permitting signature prior to the October 1 start of the new US federal fiscal year.  

CAT will continue to monitor and report on the FAA Reauthorization Bill’s progress as it advances to enactment.