Press Release

Welch Aviation and Traveler Safety Priorities Advance with Bipartisan Support

May 9, 2024

WASHINGTON, D.C. Today, the Senate passed the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Act with bipartisan support. The bill contains several priorities Senator Peter Welch (D-Vt.), a member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, fought for – including provisions to support Vermont’s rural airports, strengthen protections for travelers, create jobs in the aviation and aircraft tech industry, and advance electrical aircraft engineering.   

“This bill will help rural America fly high. Supporting our rural airports with more funding for infrastructure upgrades, addressing America’s aviation workforce shortages, improving safety concerns for passengers and workers alike, and innovating for the future of flight are only a few of the critically important priorities for Vermonters included in this FAA Reauthorization. I’m proud to support this bill,” said Sen. Welch.  

“I am frustrated the Senate was not given the opportunity to consider the amendments I led to extend the Affordable Connectivity Program with critically-needed supplemental funds – amendments that earned the support of bipartisan coalitions of Senators. These amendments would have extended the ACP and kept over 23 million households connected to the high-speed internet. Our fight is far from over – we’re going to keep working together, across party lines, to extend the ACP so families don’t fall into digital darkness,” Sen. Welch continued.  

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Act was passed with broad bipartisan support.  

Three of Senator Welch’s provisions were adopted and incorporated into the FAA, including:  

  • A provision establishing a five-year electric aircraft infrastructure pilot program for the acquisition, installation, and operation of charging equipment for electric aircraft; 
  • A provision requiring the FAA to study the current and future electrical power demands at airports needed for electric aircraft and electric multimodal charging stations on airport premises;  
  • A provision prohibiting the FAA from restricting funding for revenue-producing facilities at rural airports for certain activities; and  
  • A provision directing the FAA to review and implement, as appropriate, the National Transportation Safety Board’s (NTSB) recommendations to reduce turbulence-related injuries in aircraft operations.  

In addition to reauthorizing appropriations funding for the FAA for the next five years, the bill will:  

  • Support rural and small airports by strengthening the Essential Air Service (EAS) program, which benefits the Rutland Southern Vermont Regional Airport in Vermont.   
  • Rebuild and repair airport infrastructure by increasing resources to update ourairports, terminals and runways, and support small airports with more modern infrastructure.  
  • Grow the aviation workforce by increasing funding for the FAA’s Aviation Workforce Development Grant Program, and supporting the next generation of pilots, technicians, aircraft manufacturers and technical workers. The bill also addresses air traffic control shortages and expands training opportunities, which should help airlines like JetBlue restore flight service in the future.   
  • Develop innovative aviation technologies by furthering research, improving partnerships, and creating pathways for emerging aviation technologies like hypersonic aircraft.   
  • Raise the standard for customer protections and improve passengers’ travel experience by setting a clear right to a refund for travelers with significant delays, strengthening the Department of Transportation’s Office of Aviation Consumer Protection, and improving transparency and standards from airlines.   
  • Create a new grant program for airports to dispose of PFAS, or ‘forever chemicals,’ which have been used in firefighting foam on runways and airfields and have contaminated water sources.  
  • Improve aviation safety by increasing runway surface detection equipment, protecting against cyber security threats to aircrafts, and upgrading safety and data monitoring systems.  
  • Modernize the national airspace system with the creation of a new innovation office, dedicated resources for future airspace technology, and upgrades to bring FAA infrastructure systems into the future of aviation; and   
  • Improve accessibility on airplanes by helping passengers with disabilities and disability-related needs access accommodations during travel.