RAA Press

RAA Applauds Senate Commerce Committee Passage of FAA Reauthorization Act of 2023

Washington, DC, February 8, 2024. Media contact: 

The Regional Airline Association (RAA), which represents 16 U.S. airlines that collectively offer the only source of air service to more than two-thirds of the nation’s airports, applauds the Senate Commerce Committee’s passage of S. 1939, “FAA Reauthorization Act of 2023” and thanks Chair Cantwell and Ranking Member Cruz for their leadership. 

Importantly, the legislation contains a bipartisan measure requiring the FAA to create an additional Enhanced Qualification Pathway (EQP), where air carriers may provide a structured training pathway toward a pilot’s Restricted-Air Transport Pilot certificate. RAA thanks Senator Thune and Senator Sinema for their leadership in crafting the bill, Senator Duckworth for helping to build bipartisan consensus, and Commerce Committee members for their unanimous vote. This measure will improve pilot training and career access through airline-sponsored structured training pathways and represents a major win for safety and the traveling public. 

The underlying bill also includes numerous RAA-backed workforce priorities, such as expanding the highly successful pilot and maintenance workforce grant program. RAA also thanks Senators Baldwin and Sullivan for including a measure to raise the student loan cap for accredited flight education and training programs. With many young people deterred from pilot careers due to financial inaccessibility, this provision will help more young people access these transformative careers.   

While RAA was disappointed with a party-line vote against raising the mandatory pilot retirement age to 67, which would improve pilot supply and mitigate the attrition of regional airline captains, RAA applauds Senators for repeatedly acknowledging the safety of pilots flying at ages 65 and 66. Senators opposing cited logistical concerns, not safety concerns, while others presumed the measure would not help regional airlines. RAA notes that the FAA certified 11,225 new pilots in 2023, while major airlines hired 12,193. Allowing experienced pilots the option of working up to two years longer would narrow the supply and demand gap, while allowing time for the supply-enhancing programs of this bill to take effect. With respect to whether US pilots could fly to or cross the airspace of countries with higher retirement ages, RAA notes the role of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a specialized agency of the United Nations to promote cooperation on global aviation. When countries have mutually approved policies, the countries simply notify ICAO of these differences. For example, such an agreement exists today between Australia and New Zealand, where both States have no retirement age for commercial pilots. RAA is confident that any logistical concerns can be resolved and looks forward to informing and engaging as the bill moves forward. 

RAA thanks Senators for today’s passage and for the thoughtful discourse on important policies. We are committed to working with lawmakers on a bipartisan basis to help pass a bill that improves safety and helps to reconnect American communities. 

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About RAA  
The Regional Airline Association (RAA) provides a unified voice of advocacy for North American regional airlines aimed at promoting a safe, reliable, and strong regional airline industry. RAA serves as an important support network connecting regional airlines and industry business partners. Regional airlines operate 35% of U.S. scheduled passenger flights and provide the only source of scheduled air service to 64% of the nation’s airports. Regional airlines provide more than 70% of the air service in Alabama (72%), Alaska (88%), Arkansas (75%), Maine (72%), North Dakota (87%), South Dakota (75%), Vermont (77%), West Virginia (92%) and Wyoming (73%). Regional airlines provide more than half of the air service in Idaho (70%), Indiana (56%), Iowa (63%), Kansas (69%), Kentucky (58%), Mississippi (68%), Montana (65%), Nebraska (53%), New Hampshire (58%), and Rhode Island (58%).

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