FAA Reauthorization of 2016


Jonathan Rupprecht

Mr. Rupprecht is an aviation attorney who focuses on drones. Read more about his background as a commercial pilot, flight instructor, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University grad, and legal author. He has had media appearances on Forbes, Newsweek, Politico, NPR, Marketwatch, The Independent, Motherboard, and other sources. Feel free to send Jonathan a message here.

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FAA Reauthorization of 2016 – Amendments to the FMRA

FESSA of 2016 amendments to the FMRA of 2012

The FAA Extension, Safety, and Security Act of 2016 (“FESSA”) added new material governing unmanned aircraft but also amended two sections of the FMRA that were applicable to unmanned aircraft. Section 2201 (definitions) is really just amending the definitions (Section 331) from the FMRA.  The original portions of the bill amending the language is clunky to read  (“amending – (1) in paragraph (6) by inserting ‘, including everything that is on board or otherwise attached to the aircraft’ after ’55 pounds’) so I just updated the definitions from Section 331 of the FMRA in this post to read correctly. Bold is new language and strikethrough is deleted lanugage. The actual raw text is located at the bottom of the page.

This post is part of an overall FAA reauthorization of 2016 (“FESSA”) & drones series of blog posts.

Section 331 Definitions Amended:

Paragraph 6

The term ‘‘small unmanned aircraft’’ means an unmanned aircraft weighing less than 55 pounds including everything that is on board or otherwise attached to the aircraft.

My Commentary: I think the reason why this was clarified was that many individuals who were new to unmanned aircraft did not understand the idea of max takeoff weight while Part 61 pilots already would. E.g. 14 C.F.R. § 1.1 says, “Small aircraft means aircraft of 12,500 pounds or less, maximum certificated takeoff weight.”

Paragraph 7

This paragraph was completely stricken and replaced with:

(7) TEST RANGE.—

(A) IN GENERAL.—The term ‘test range’ means a defined geographic area where research and development are conducted as authorized by the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration.

(B) INCLUSIONS.—The term ‘test range’ includes any of the 6 test ranges established by the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration under section 332(c), as in effect on the day before the date of enactment of this subparagraph, and any public entity authorized by the Federal Aviation Administration as an unmanned aircraft system flight test center before January 1, 2009.

My Commentary:You might be wondering why the whole “before January 1, 2009” thing was included. Many people do not know that there was a FAA UAS test site BEFORE the creation of the FMRA and the 6 test sites that were designated under it. The New Mexico State University Unmanned Aircraft Systems Flight Test Center was created as part of a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement with the FAA.

Section 332 Amended:

Section 332(c) of the FMRA was amended[1] to say:

ESTABLISHMENT.—Not later than 180 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Administrator shall establish a program to integrate unmanned aircraft systems into the national airspace system at 6 test ranges. The program shall terminate 5 years after the date of enactment of this Act on September 30, 2019.

My Commentary: The program was only expected to go until 2017 but I guess Congress feels the FAA needs to do more testing.

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Actual Text of Section 2201

SEC. 2201. DEFINITIONS.
(a) DEFINITIONS APPLIED.—In this subtitle, the terms ‘‘unmanned aircraft’’, ‘‘unmanned aircraft system’’, and ‘‘small unmanned aircraft’’ have the meanings given those terms in section 331 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (49 U.S.C. 40101 note), as amended by this Act.
(b) FAA MODERNIZATION AND REFORM ACT.—Section 331 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (49 U.S.C. 40101 note) is amended—

(1) in paragraph (6) by inserting ‘‘, including everything that is on board or otherwise attached to the aircraft’’ after ‘‘55 pounds’’; and

(2) by striking paragraph (7) and inserting the  following:

‘‘(7) TEST RANGE.—
‘‘(A) IN GENERAL.—The term ‘test range’ means a defined geographic area where research and development are conducted as authorized by the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration.
‘‘(B) INCLUSIONS.—The term ‘test range’ includes any of the 6 test ranges established by the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Ad ministration under section 332(c), as in effect on the day before the date of enactment of this subparagraph, and any public entity authorized by the Federal Aviation Administration as an unmanned aircraft system flight test center before January 1, 2009.’’.

[1] Section 1102(i).


Jonathan Rupprecht

Mr. Rupprecht is an aviation attorney who focuses on drones. Read more about his background as a commercial pilot, flight instructor, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University grad, and legal author. He has had media appearances on Forbes, Newsweek, Politico, NPR, Marketwatch, The Independent, Motherboard, and other sources. Feel free to send Jonathan a message here.

Latest posts by Jonathan Rupprecht (see all)

FAA Reauthorization of 2016 & Drones: A First Look

 

FAA reauthorization of 2016

What has been colloquially called the FAA reauthorization has been agreed upon by the congressional leadership. It is properly called the FAA Extension, Safety, and Security Act of 2016. (“FESSA”).[1] This Act needed to be passed because the current funding liabilities of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (“FMRA”) expire July 15, 2016, but the FESSA will extend funding to September 30, 2017.[2]  U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) announced he was going to send the legislation to President Obama by July 15th.

I’ll give you my input on the FESSA based upon my experience as a commercial pilot, flight instructor, and aviation attorney focusing on drones.

How to use this post:

There are many things the FESSA speaks to but for purposes of this blog post, I will be focusing only on the sections that pertain to unmanned aircraft. Each of these sections I am planning on writing an individual blog post for listing the FESSA text and my legal analysis of it. The reason why is there is a lot of material in the FESSA and making one “mega-post” would be very hard on readers.

Individuals who signed up for my newsletter will rewarded first with my posts. Eventually I will post them on social media. This is a rolling post and I will continually keep updating it by linking the new blog posts to the sections below. You should bookmark this page.

Sections Applicable to Drones

Section 2201. Definitions. (Really Just Amendments to the FMRA Definitions)

Sec. 2202. Identification standards.

Sec. 2203. Safety statements.

Sec. 2204. Facilitating interagency cooperation for unmanned aircraft authorization in support of firefighting operations and utility restoration.

Sec. 2205. Interference with wildfire suppression, law enforcement, or emergency response effort by operation of unmanned aircraft.

Sec. 2206. Pilot project for airport safety and airspace hazard mitigation.

Sec. 2207. Emergency exemption process.

Sec. 2208. Unmanned aircraft systems traffic management.

Sec. 2209. Applications for designation.

Sec. 2210. Operations associated with critical infrastructure.

Sec. 2211. Unmanned aircraft systems research and development roadmap.

Sec. 2212. Unmanned aircraft systems-manned aircraft collision research.

Sec. 2213. Probabilistic metrics research and development study.

Overall Highlights of the FESSA

A printable PDF version of the text below is located here.

FAA EXTENSION

  • The measure extends the authorization of the FAA’s programs and the taxes that will fund those programs through September 30, 2017 at current funding levels.
  • The current authorization of the FAA and associated taxes expires on July 15, 2016.

AVIATION SAFETY PROVISIONS

  • Streamlines processes for approval and interagency cooperation to deploy unmanned aircraft during emergencies, such as disaster responses and wildfires.
  • Prohibits unmanned aircraft users from interfering with emergency response activities, including wildfire suppression, and raises civil penalties to not more than $20,000 for those found in violation.
  • Creates new processes to detect, identify, and mitigate unauthorized operation of unmanned aircraft around airports and critical infrastructure.
  • Expedites the completion of the pilot records database required in the Airline Safety and FAA Extension Act of 2010 in response to the 2009 Colgan Air Flight 3407 accident.
  • Requires the marking of certain towers to improve their visibility to low-flying aircraft and help prevent accidents.
  • Requires the FAA to evaluate and update standards for crash-resistant helicopter fuel systems in response to fatal accidents where the victims perished in post-crash fires.
  • Streamlines and improves the air traffic controller hiring process and ensures the FAA can better address chronic controller shortages with experienced candidates.
  • Directs the FAA to establish a comprehensive and strategic framework to identify and address cybersecurity risks to the aviation system.

SAFETY SECURITY STABILITY

  • Strengthens mental health screening for pilots, addressing a factor in the 2015 Germanwings Flight 9525 crash.
  • Ensures that pilots are sufficiently trained on manual flying skills and how to monitor cockpit automation systems, addressing a factor in the 2013 Asiana Flight 214 accident in San Francisco.
  • Requires training for flight attendants in recognizing and responding to potential victims of human trafficking.
  • Requires the FAA to provide quarterly updates to Congress regarding the number of incidents involving laser pointers being aimed at aircraft, and the number of civil or criminal enforcement actions taken by federal authorities with regard to these incidents.

AVIATION SECURITY PROVISIONS

  • Strengthens security for foreign airports by requiring comprehensive security assessments for all overseas airports serving the United States and considers the level of information sharing and security capabilities of foreign airports.
  • Authorizes capacity development, training, screening equipment donation, and cargo program certification for overseas airports to bolster the security standards for flights headed to the United States from high risk airports.
  • Expands the TSA PreCheck program by directing TSA to partner with the private sector to develop enhanced enrollment and vetting methods. By developing and marketing this program, TSA can strengthen security by identifying trusted travelers, while also increasing operational efficiency of checkpoints by providing expedited screening to more passengers.
  • Optimizes checkpoints by redeploying certain TSA personnel and assessing TSA’s staffing allocation model, in order to reduce passenger wait times while enhancing security effectiveness.
  • Tightens the access controls and employee vetting standards for aviation workers with access to secure and sterile areas of airports, in order to mitigate the insider threat to aviation security.
  • Authorizes “Checkpoint of the Future” innovation efforts underway at TSA, authorizes additional TSA Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response teams, and ensures these teams are trained to assist transportation hubs in preparing for and responding to active shooter scenarios.

ADDITIONAL PROVISIONS

  • Reforms and streamlines the third-class medical certification process.
  • Requires air carriers to provide a refund of paid baggage fees when items are lost or unreasonably delayed.
  • Requires airlines to generally ensure that children 13 years of age or under are seated adjacent to an adult or older child traveling with them.
  • Takes steps to improve air travel for persons with disabilities by requiring a review of training and best practices by airports and airlines, and by requiring DOT to issue a rule to address several issues of concern to the disabled community.
  • Extends authority for the DOT’s Advisory Committee for Aviation Consumer Protection.

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[1] Section 1 (a).

[2] Section 1101(b); 1102(d),