While many lawmakers, administration officials and aviation stakeholders are beginning to gear up for the next FAA reauthorization bill, the House aviation subcommittee took time this week to examine how well FAA is implementing the current FAA bill, which Congress passed two years ago.
During the hearing, lawmakers focused on the integration of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) into the national airspace system (NAS). Rep. Rick Larsen (D-Wash.), the top Democrat on the aviation subcommittee, said that FAA expects 7,500 small unmanned aircraft could be operating in the NAS within the next five years if guidelines and regulations are in place to handle them.
FAA Administrator Michael Huerta called unmanned aircraft a “game changer.” He pointed out that the agency selected six test sites in December. But he warned that safety is FAA’s priority and that the agency needs to consider privacy issues and ensure that unmanned aircraft can detect and avoid other aircraft.
Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) made another pitch for the Contract Tower Program, which he described as one of the “most cost-effective safety programs for the agency and the taxpayers.” Davis asked Huerta whether the FAA is considering making changes to the cost-benefit ratios that determine eligibility and cost share formulas.