On May 15, Congress passed a bill that reauthorizes the FAA for another five years and provides the agency with lawmakers’ direction about its programs and priorities. The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2024 offers notable enhancements for both general aviation and the vertical aviation industry. It aligns with priorities supported by VAI in aviation safety, workforce development, and advancements in air mobility development.

While we cannot cover the entire 1,000-plus-page bill in this article, we highlight below some important provisions.

Title III – Aviation Safety Improvements

Sec. 320. Crash-Resistant Fuel Systems in Rotorcraft. Directs the FAA to task the Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee (ARAC) with reviewing and updating the 2018 report of the Rotorcraft Occupant Protection Working Group by reviewing National Transportation Safety Board data from 2016 through 2023 on post-crash fires in helicopter accidents and determining to what extent crash-resistant fuel systems could have prevented fatalities.

In addition, this section requires the ARAC to develop recommendations on ways to encourage helicopter owners and operators to expedite installation of crash-resistant fuel systems, regardless of the original certification and manufacture date of their aircraft. It also requires the FAA to implement those recommendations or work with the US Helicopter Safety Team, as appropriate, to implement such recommendations.

Sec. 333. Helicopter Safety. Tasks the FAA’s Investigative Technologies Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) with reviewing and assessing the need for changes to safety requirements related to flight data recorders, flight data monitoring, and terrain awareness and warning systems for turbine-powered rotorcraft certificated for six or more passenger seats.

Sec. 363. Commercial Air Tour and Sport Parachuting Safety. Requires the FAA to issue a final rule increasing safety regulations for commercial air tour operators based on the recommendations of an ARC. Beginning two years after the date on which the final rule is promulgated, operators are prohibited from conducting commercial air tours unless they either hold a commercial air carrier certificate and conduct air tours under 14 CFR Part 135 or 121, or they comply with the FAA’s final rulemaking. Such requirements do not apply to small businesses conducting 100 or fewer commercial air tours in a calendar year.

The FAA is also required to issue new or revised regulations that require commercial air tour operators or persons conducting aerial photography operations who seek to conduct these operations with removed or modified doors to receive FAA approval prior to conducting such operations.

Title IV – Aerospace Workforce

Sec. 426. Military Aviation Maintenance Technicians Rule. Requires the FAA to issue, no later than 18 months after enactment of the reauthorization bill, a notice of proposed rulemaking to revise 14 CFR Part 65 to create a written competency test for military aviation maintenance technicians and to develop, as necessary, a relevant Airman Certification Standard to qualify eligible military maintenance technicians for civilian mechanic certificates with airframe or powerplant ratings.

Sec. 440. Improving Federal Aviation Workforce Development Programs. Establishes a new aviation manufacturing workforce development program to support the education and recruitment of aviation manufacturing technical workers and aerospace engineers. This section authorizes funding levels for the aviation maintenance, aircraft pilot, and aviation manufacturing development programs at $20 million, respectively, for each fiscal year 2025 through 2028.

Title VI – Modernizing the National Airspace System

Sec. 627. Low-Altitude Routes for Vertical Flight. Directs the FAA to initiate a rulemaking process to establish or update low-altitude routes and flight procedures to ensure safe rotorcraft and powered-lift operations in the National Airspace System (NAS).

Sec. 628. Required Consultation with National Parks Overflights Advisory Group. Requires the FAA and other agencies to consult with the National Parks Overflights Advisory Group in the development of air tour management plans over lands administered by the National Park Service.

Title VIII – General Aviation

Sec. 818. Part 135 Air Carrier Certificate Backlog. Directs the FAA to take such actions as may be necessary to reduce the backlog of Part 135 air carrier certificate applications. Specifically, the FAA must set a goal to maintain, within one year of the reauthorization bill’s enactment, an average certificate processing time of less than 60 days and, within two years of enactment, an average processing time of less than 30 days.

Sec. 827. EAGLE Initiative. Requires the FAA to continue to partner with industry and other federal government stakeholders to carry out the Eliminate Aviation Gasoline Lead Emissions (EAGLE) initiative through the end of 2030.

Sec. 829. Prohibition on Using ADS-B Out Data to Initiate an Investigation. Prohibits the FAA from initiating an investigation (excluding a criminal investigation) of a person based exclusively on ADS-B Out data.

Title IX – New Entrants and Aerospace Innovation

Sec. 907. Remote Identification Alternative Means of Compliance. Requires the FAA administrator to review and evaluate 14 CFR Part 89, Remote Identification of Unmanned Aircraft, to determine if unmanned aircraft manufacturers and operators can comply through alternative means of compliance, including through network-­based remote identification.

Sec. 908. Part 107 Waiver Improvements. Directs the FAA to use a performance- and risk-based approach in reviewing requests for waivers related to 14 CFR Part 107, Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems.

Sec. 924. FAA Comprehensive Plan on UAS Automation. Requires the FAA to establish a comprehensive plan for the integration of autonomous uncrewed aircraft systems (UASs) into the NAS.

Sec. 930. Beyond Visual-Line-of-Sight Operations for Unmanned Aircraft Systems. Directs the FAA to issue a notice of proposed rulemaking within four months of the authorization bill’s enactment to establish a performance-based regulatory pathway for UASs to operate beyond a visual line of sight (BVLOS).

Sec. 955. Rules for Operation of Powered-Lift Aircraft. Requires the FAA to publish within seven months of the authorization bill’s enactment a special final rule for the operations of, and pilot requirements for, powered-lift aircraft, and apply specific requirements and considerations to such rulemaking.

Sec. 957. Powered-Lift Aircraft Entry into Service. Requires the FAA to provide short- and long-term solutions for the safe integration of powered-lift aircraft into the NAS, including controlled airspace.

Sec. 958. Infrastructure Supporting Vertical Flight. Requires the FAA to update Engineering Brief No. 105, Vertiport Design; publish a performance-based vertiport design advisory circular; and begin performing the work necessary to update the Heliport Design Advisory Circular in order to provide performance-based design guidance.

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Cade Clark

Cade Clark

VAI’s chief government affairs officer, Cade Clark has directed association advocacy programs for over 20 years. Growing up, he worked at an FBO where Cade learned to fly, washed planes, got in the mechanics’ way, idolized the old-timers and their stories, and deepened his love for all things general aviation.