Before Congress adjourned at the end of 2019, lawmakers passed two packages of must-pass appropriations bills including one that contained funding for DOT, FAA and other federal agencies. The measure included a total of $10 million for two aviation workforce programs in fiscal year 2020 that Congress had previously authorized.
The FAA reauthorization bill, which Congress passed in 2018, required DOT to establish a program to support the education of future aircraft pilots.” It also required DOT to establish a program to support “the education and recruitment of aviation maintenance technical workers.” The bill authorized $5 million for each program annually through FY23.
The multi-year FAA reauthorization bill (H.R. 302) that Congress passed in late 2018 did not include a proposal from then-Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-SD) that would have allowed airlines to provide training to help first officers meet the 1,500-hour flight time requirement.
AAAE supported Senator Thune’s plan because it would have opened the door for airlines to provide structured and disciplined training courses if
the FAA determined that the training would enhance aviation safety. We argued that the modest approach would have kept the 1,500-hour rule intact, improved pilot training, and enhanced aviation safety by focusing on quality
of flight hours rather than the quantity
of flight hours.
Although Thune’s proposal didn’t make into the final bill, the legislation included some provisions that may help shine a light on aviation workforce challenges. For instance, the measure requires the Department of Transportation to “establish a program to support the education of future aircraft pilots and the development of the aircraft pilot workforce.”
The FAA bill also calls on Government Accountability Office to “evaluate the current and future supply of individuals in the aviation and aerospace workforce” and to identify methods to increase the numbers of those individuals.
Aviation Workforce Symposium and Congressional Hearing:
There finally seems to be wider acknowledgement within the administration and on Capitol Hill that there is a shortage of pilots, flight instructors, and other aviation workers. On September 13, 2018, DOT Secretary Elaine Chao and Acting FAA Administrator Dan Elwell hosted a day-long Aviation Workforce Symposium to examine the issue and to share ideas on ways to attract more young people to the aviation industry.
Two weeks later, a House Small Business Subcommittee held a hearing on how the aviation workforce shortage is impacting small businesses. Marty Lenss, the Eastern Iowa Airport Director and Vice Chair of AAAE’s Air Service Committee, participated in both events.