Congress Passes Federal Budget
Recently, Congress passed a budget to provide funding for all federal programs through the end of FY 2015. That’s great news for FAA programs, as we anticipate being able to begin issuing FY 2014 federal grants soon, continuing through the end of September 2015. It should also provide needed funding to continue operation of our contract towers for the same period of time. There is still the issue of the federal debt ceiling that must be dealt with in February 2014. However, this new budget is a huge step forward in the continued improvement and development of the Texas Airport System.
General Aviation Pilot Protection Act of 2013
A new bill has been introduced in Congress, H.R. 3708, named the “General Aviation Pilot Protection Act of 2013.” This act would allow pilots to use the driver’s license medical standard for non-commercial VFR flights in aircraft weighing up to 6,000 pounds with no more than six seats. That includes virtually all single-engine airplanes with six or fewer seats, including Beech Bonanzas, as well as many light twins like the Piper Aztec, Beech Baron 55 and 58, and Cessna 310. Pilots would be able to carry up to five passengers, flying at altitudes below 14,000 feet msl, no faster than 250 knots. The act would also require the FAA to report on the safety consequences of the new rule after five years.
FAA currently permits “Light Sport Pilots” to pilot specific small aircraft under certain conditions without an FAA medical if they possess a valid state driver’s license. This bill simply increases the number of pilots/aircraft that would come under this exemption. If this bill becomes law, it is likely that it will result in a significant increase in the number of active pilots as well as an increase in the number of aircraft purchased each year.