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FAA reauthorization bill on indefinite delay in U.S. Senate over pilot training amendment

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A markup of the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill is officially on an indefinite delay after an ongoing dispute over a pilot training amendment.

A Senate panel delayed the bill Thursday.

After Commerce Committee Chair Maria Cantwell of Washington and member Ted Cruz of Texas introduced the $107 billion bill, two days later an amendment was introduced. The bill would improve runway safety, track high-altitude balloons, prevent airlines from charging families to sit together and prepare the nation’s airspace for the future.

Ahead of yesterday’s dispute, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine of Virginia issued a statement.

“The single runway at DCA is already the most congested in the country. Ahead of the Senate Commerce Committee markup this morning, we want to be clear that we will strongly oppose any FAA reauthorization that expands the number of flights or passengers into and out of National. Any such expansion would disrupt the balance among the region’s airports and create additional delays and problems at National, an airport just one-fourteenth the size of Dulles.”

Warner, Kaine, Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen penned an op-ed yesterday urging colleagues to oppose changes to the current slot and perimeter rules at DCA. In March, they sent a letter to the Senate Commerce Committee, which is responsible for reauthorization. The senators oppose any changes to the two airports.

Since 1986, Congress has limited the number of nonstop flights that can originate out of DCA to airports outside of a 1,250-mile perimeter. Washington Dulles International (IAD) was planned as the growth airport for the region’s aviation needs, but Congress has made changed to the rules with past FAA reauthorization bills that disrupted the balance between the two airports. DCA’s facilities have experienced strained roadways and limited parking, as well as overburdened baggage systems. The changes also prevented Dulles, which can accommodate larger planes for landing and take off, from reaching its full potential.

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.