Press Release

Welch Priorities for Vermont Included in the Bipartisan FAA Reauthorization and Advanced Out of Commerce Committee

Feb 8, 2024

Bill Includes Support for Rural Airports, Dedicated Air Traffic Controller Workforce Funds, Passenger Safety Protections, and Electric Aviation Innovation

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

“Reauthorizing the FAA will help Vermont take flight — with dedicated funds to strengthen and repair rural airports, address America’s aviation workforce shortage, improve safety in the skies and the runways, and innovate and prepare for the future of electric innovation,” said Sen. Welch. “At a time when airline carriers are leaving rural America behind, Congress has an obligation to act and provide our communities and airports with the resources necessary for long-term success.”  

The Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act of 2023 advanced out of the Senate Commerce Committee with bipartisan support. 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. 

Three of Senator Welch’s amendments were adopted in the FAA, including: an amendment requiring the FAA to conduct a study into the current and future electrical power demands at airports needed for electric aircraft and electric multimodal charging stations on airport premises; an amendment prohibiting the FAA from restricting funding for revenue-producing facilities at rural airports; and an amendment calling on the FAA to review and implement, as appropriate, the National Transportation Safety Board’s (NTSB) recommendations to reduce turbulence-related injuries in aircraft operations.