May 1, 2018

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization legislation that cleared the U.S. House of Representatives on April 27 included amendments led by U.S. Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-VA) to bolster federal support for spaceports and to reduce airport noise.

“This critical five-year extension to the FAA will help keep America at the forefront of aviation innovation as we continue to lead the world,” said Rep. Comstock, who supported the House-approved FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018, H.R. 4, which passed by a 393-to-13 vote.

U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, introduced H.R. 4 on April 13. In addition to extending and funding FAA programs for five years, Rep. Shuster said the bill includes “many important reforms” to help American aviation manufacturers remain globally competitive and to spur long-term industry infrastructure investments.

“This investment in our infrastructure will pay dividends to future generations,” said Comstock, a member of the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. “Our aviation community needs to be competitive with our global counterparts as we look to the future of aviation. This legislation maintains that competitiveness while reinforcing passenger protections so our flight system stays the safest in the world.”

H.R. 4 includes House Amendment (H.Amdt.) 565, introduced on April 26 by Rep. Comstock that would update policy to strengthen the role of spaceports, which are bases where spacecraft are launched. The Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS), which launches Orbital ATK’s Antares and Minotaur rockets, is located in Wallops Island, Va. H.Amdt. 565 would “require a study on possible funding options for a potential federal grant program for spaceport activities,” according to the congressional record summary.

Specifically, her amendment would require a report on a National Spaceports Policy, “which evaluates the national security and civil space launch demands; proposes policies designed to ensure a robust and resilient orbital and suborbital spaceport infrastructure; and reviews the development and investments made by international competitors,” among other aspects, according to the summary. H.Amdt. 565 also would establish an Office of Spaceports within the FAA to support, promote and enable infrastructure improvements at FAA-licensed spaceports in the United States.

The congresswoman pointed out that state spaceports have provided new low-cost capabilities for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), as well as defense and commercial users, and improved industry resiliency and responsiveness.

“The FAA currently plays a critical role in licensing and working with these spaceports as they grow their infrastructure and capabilities to support a variety of missions,” she said.

Another amendment supported by Rep. Comstock regards reducing aircraft noise. Section 159 of H.R. 4 calls on the FAA administrator to “conduct a review of the relationship between aircraft noise exposure and its effects on communities around airports,” according to the text of the bill in the congressional record.

Submission of the report to Congress would be required within two years of enactment of H.R. 4 and “shall contain such preliminary recommendations as the Administrator determines appropriate for revising the land use compatibility guidelines” in the Code of Federal Regulations, according to the bill’s text.

“I was pleased to see this provision included that would support environmental research to reduce noise pollution,” Rep. Comstock said.

An early push led by Rep. Comstock also led to slot and perimeter rules that help balance regional air traffic at busy airports being upheld in H.R. 4. The FAA defines “slots” as limits on flight arrivals and departures that are designed to manage air traffic at busy airports, such as two in her district right outside Washington, D.C., the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington, Va., and Washington Dulles International Airport in Loudoun and Fairfax counties in Virginia.

On April 10, Rep. Comstock led a bipartisan, bicameral letter calling on the FAA to maintain the status quo limiting air traffic at Reagan National. “We fought and succeeded in keeping slot and perimeter rules unchanged, ensuring that the current balance of air traffic between Dulles Airport and Reagan National remains in place,” Rep. Comstock said following the April 27 vote.

Rep. Comstock also applauded H.R. 4’s inclusion of the Disaster Recovery Reform Act, H.R. 4460. Introduced by U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta (R-PA) in November 2017, Rep. Comstock said the measure would advance Federal Emergency Management Agency reforms that “prioritize mitigation so that future damages can be minimized and lives saved.”

 

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