Congress Passes FAA Reauthorization Bill
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Sunday, June 16, 2024
Congress Passes FAA Reauthorization Bill

Congress Passes FAA Reauthorization Bill

Homepage USPA
Thursday, May 16, 2024

On May 15, Congress passed the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Bill. Over the last year, you have likely seen USPA’s call to action asking for members to reach out to their representatives and voice their opposition to draft language in the bill related to skydiving. This was a qualified success: The final bill does include sport parachuting language, but it was far less damaging than what was originally sought by Senator Schatz, who introduced the Air Tour and Sport Parachuting Safety Act in 2020. This initial bill called for mandating three specific National Transportation Safety Board recommendations from 2008. The FAA previously rejected these recommendations, citing a lack of data demonstrating their effectiveness in improving safety. 

The final bill, instead of mandating new rules, establishes the creation of an Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) under the FAA's authority. This committee will be tasked with reviewing and developing findings and recommendations for enhancing sport parachute safety. The ARC process prioritizes a data-centric approach. This allows the FAA to analyze recent safety data to identify trends and potential areas for improvement. By basing recommendations on concrete evidence, the FAA can propose targeted safety enhancements with a stronger foundation. 

The legislation has been reduced to two specific areas the ARC must consider: 

  • Aircraft Maintenance and Inspection Programs: The committee will evaluate the effectiveness of implementing FAA-approved programs that consider minimum equipment standards based on engine manufacturer recommendations (service bulletins and service information letters) for time between overhauls and component life limits. 

  • Pilot Training and Proficiency: The ARC will examine initial and annual recurrent training and proficiency checks for pilots conducting parachute operations. These checks should address operation-specific and aircraft-specific weight and balance calculations, preflight inspections, emergency and recovery procedures and parachutist egress procedures for each aircraft type flown. 

The bill ensures that industry parachute operators and organizations like USPA will have representation on the ARC, and the committee must consider safety recommendations submitted by USPA. 

The FAA Reauthorization Bill establishes a clear timeline: 

1. Aviation Rulemaking Committee Formation (Estimated Timeframe, 3-6 Months) 

Following the bill's passage, the FAA will initiate the process of forming the ARC. This will involve identifying qualified representatives, including parachute operations, organizations such as USPA and, potentially, safety experts. Once assembled, the committee will establish its operating procedures and define a clear work plan for the review. 

2. ARC Review and Recommendation Development (Estimated Timeframe, 18-24 Months) 

The core function of the ARC will be to comprehensively analyze safety data related to sport parachuting operations. This data can come from various sources, including accident reports, incident databases and safety studies conducted by industry organizations. By analyzing trends and identifying areas with a higher risk of incidents, the ARC can develop targeted recommendations for improving safety. This phase may also involve public comment periods and consultations with relevant stakeholders. 

3. FAA Report to Congress (Estimated Timeframe, 3-6 Months) 

Once the ARC completes its review and finalizes its recommendations, the FAA will have 36 months from the bill's passage to submit a report to Congress. This report will detail the ARC's findings, including any data-driven safety concerns identified. It will also present the specific recommendations developed by the committee for enhancing sport parachuting safety. Furthermore, the FAA will outline its planned course of action based on the ARC's input. This could include proposing new regulations, implementing non-regulatory safety initiatives or a combination. 

4. Potential Rulemaking (Estimated Timeframe, Variable) 

If the FAA proposes new regulations based on the ARC's recommendations, a separate rulemaking process will be initiated. This process typically involves further public comment periods, economic analyses and potential revisions to the proposed rules. The timeframe for implementing any new regulations can vary depending on the complexity of the proposed changes and any potential revisions required based on public feedback. 

These are estimated timeframes, and the actual timeline for each step may vary. However, the 36-month window outlined in the bill provides a clear framework for the process.  

USPA remains committed to working closely with the FAA throughout the ARC process and will insist on the selection of qualified industry representatives to ensure the committee understands the real-world practices and challenges sport parachute operators face. USPA will provide safety expertise and data resources for the ARC's review to help guarantee only relevant safety considerations are thoroughly examined. We will strongly advocate for the ARC to base its recommendations on proven best practices. This data-driven approach will help ensure that any changes are truly effective in improving safety. Our goal is to protect the interests of the sport by engaging with the ARC and the FAA so that any proposed regulations balance safety enhancements with the continued growth and enjoyment of sport parachuting. 

 

Michael Knight | D-22804
USPA Director of Government Relations

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