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Congressman Mark DeSaulnier

Representing the 11th District of California

Congressman DeSaulnier Successfully Includes Measures to Address Aviation Safety in FAA Reauthorization

April 27, 2018
Press Release

Washington, DC — Today, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 4, a bill that reauthorizes the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for five years, continues investments in airports, and makes necessary safety reforms, by a vote of 393-to-13. Congressman Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11), a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, fought for and included several critical safety measures to help prevent runway accidents. The U.S. has seen an alarming 83 percent increase in runway incursions between 2011 and 2017 as well as a series of near misses.

The occurrence of close calls and runway incursions, including three incidents at SFO, prompted Congressman DeSaulnier to work over the last nine months with multiple stakeholders, experts, and the FAA and National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to gather information and develop recommendations on how to prevent accidents.

“As a frequent flyer, I am proud that we have an exceptional aviation safety record, but we must stay vigilant and proactive in addressing safety concerns. Recent high-profile near-miss incidents across the country—including in our backyard at SFO—have brought new safety concerns to light,” said Congressman Mark DeSaulnier. “I am pleased that my amendments to update critical safety practices were included in the final FAA bill. This is a good first start, and I am working on legislation to further enhance safety. Rather than wait for a catastrophic accident, we must learn as much as possible from safety incidents and take action to protect the flying public.”

DeSaulnier’s amendments included in H.R. 4 would improve the use of technology and data to support the work of pilots, air traffic controllers, and FAA safety inspectors to ensure safe airport landings through:

  • Better Alerts to Air Traffic Controllers: Requiring the FAA to review ways to expand and improve the use of technology that can alert air traffic controllers when an airplane is improperly aligned before landing. Following the July 7th Air Canada incident, SFO’s air traffic control made changes to its use of this equipment, and this change should be explored at other airports as well.
  • Audible Notifications to Pilots: Assessing the benefits of equipping all aircraft with systems that provide an audible alert to pilots, notifying them of their alignments as they are nearing a runway.
  • Reducing Risks Associated with Power Outages: Protecting key systems, such as communication, navigation, and surveillance systems, from disruption caused by a power outage or other similar unforeseen circumstances. The December 29, 2017 the Horizon Air taxiway landing at Pullman-Moscow airport was likely compounded by a power outage that caused the runway lights to fail, and the status of runway lights at SFO on the night of July 7 may have added to the confusion of the Air Canada pilots 
  • Improving Data Analysis for Safety: Improving the use of data for identifying safety issues and recommending action before accidents occur.

In addition to the above safety measures, Congressman DeSaulnier also successfully included a measure in the bill to improve ground transportation:

  • Make Travel to and around Airports More Efficient: Requires a study of ground transportation options, including the impact of ride hailing services, at our nation’s 10 busiest airports to help make travel easier and more efficient for passengers. 

In February, DeSaulnier led a request with Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Ranking Member Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Aviation Rick Larsen (D-WA) for the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to review data on safety incidents and FAA’s framework for responding to them. In December 2017, DeSaulnier called on Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) to hold a hearing on improving aviation safety. The Committee responded by holding a hearing titled “The State of Aviation Safety” on February 27, 2018.