Separate bills passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in mid-June were developed to help improve the Notice to Airmen (Notam) system and allow incentive payments for early completion of airport projects. The legislation, H.R. 1262, the Notice to Airman Improvement Act of 2021, introduced by U.S. Rep. Pete Stauber (R-Minn.) and cosponsored by U.S. Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (D-Calif.), and H.R. 468, the Expedited Delivery of Airport Infrastructure Act of 2021, sponsored by U.S. Reps. Sam Graves (R-Mo.) and Garret Graves (R-La.) passed the House the same day on noncontroversial, bipartisan voice votes. They now are before the U.S. Senate.
Rep. Stauber’s Notice to Airman Improvement Act of 2021 is the latest Congressional attempt to address the dissemination of critical aeronautical information updates. “Modern aviation is incredibly safe, but in order to keep it that way, we must constantly work to improve upon safety protocols,” Stauber said in a news release. “That’s why I am proud to lead legislation that will help iron-out the kinks in the NOTAM system and make both commercial and general aviation even safer than it already is.”
“Improving long overdue changes to these safety-of-flight notifications will be very welcomed by pilots,” AOPA Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Jim Coon said in commenting on the Notams bill.
The Graves’ bill, meanwhile, has a relatively simple purpose: allow FAA Airport Improvement Program funds derived from airline ticket and aviation fuel taxes to be used to make incentive payments to contractors who meet contract specifications for early project completions.
“This is a smart reform that can help deliver airport projects ahead of schedule, relieve operational disruptions at airports caused by unfinished projects, and save money,” said Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.), the bill’s lead sponsor, in a news release. “Getting projects done sooner rather than later can essentially provide a similar impact as increasing investment without requiring any additional federal resources,” he added.
REAL-TIME SUA NOTIFICATIONS IN THE WORKS
Determining and verifying the status of special-use airspace (SUA)—the military operations and restricted areas, among others, that seemingly always are between you and your destination—will become easier if the provisions in the 2021 defense authorization bill are fully implemented, according to AOPA. Thanks to Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.), the act included a provision that requires the FAA and the Department of Defense to establish an automated real-time broadcast of the airspace status, likely via ADS-B In.
The FY2021 National Defense Authorization Act, became law on January 1, 2021, and requires the deployment of “automated public dissemination of information on the real-time status of the activation or deactivation of military operations areas and restricted areas in a manner that is similar to the manner that temporary flight restrictions are published and disseminated.” The legislation stated the deployment “shall” occur, “to the maximum extent practicable,” “not later than 180 days after enactment.” That deadline wasn’t met. Anticipating the schedule slippage, general aviation’s alphabet soup, along with ForeFlight, Garmin and others, wrote the Secretaries of Defense and Transportation in May, requesting to be involved in the associated planning and implementation discussions.
The groups noted that “a MITRE Corporation study suggests that implementing such a system could save $100 million annually in fuel burn, resulting in not only significant financial savings for airline, military, and general aviation operations, but would also help our environment by considerably reducing carbon emissions.”
“While the FAA and DOD are in discussions on how best to accomplish the real-time notifications that are required by law, the aviation industry has the needed technological skills and experience to help bring this to fruition,” said Jim Coon, AOPA senior vice president of government affairs and advocacy. “We look forward to joining our industry partners at the table in fulfilling this important advancement for aviation and for pilots.”
According to AOPA, “Real-time notifications will also deliver safety benefits as some large SUA complexes cannot be avoided when accessing underlying airports. Military training and restricted areas comprise nearly one-fifth of the airspace within the continental U.S. national airspace system. Real-time notifications will not negatively impact military training activities.”