Faa jumps some hurdles, but more remain – politico gas in oil

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Model citizens: Drone policy also got some expected pushes from Congress, with amendments adopted that would allow the FAA to regulate recreational drone users (who have until now enjoyed a “model aircraft” exemption from agency authority) and another one pushing regulators to establish a program on remote drone identification.

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FUTURE’S SO HAZY: Your MT host made a quick jaunt to New York City Thursday for an aviation industry panel billed as a look at the “future of ATC and NextGen” now that House Transportation Chairman Bill Shuster has jettisoned his push for an Air Traffic Organization spinoff. But when it came to addressing that age-old question of “where do we go from here,” no clear answer emerged. One thing the panelists — which included representatives from AOPA, NBAA, JetBlue and the FAA — largely agreed on is that the FAA’s inability to plan its spending years in advance due to Congress’ habit of passing stopgap spending bills is problematic for modernization efforts.

Let’s hold hands: “The aviation community acts best when we act together,” said Bailey Edwards, FAA’s assistant administrator for policy, international affairs and environment. Whether all the different constituencies that make up the industry can, of course, is another question. “What I would like to think is that we saw a broad group of the aviation industry talking about a commitment to modernizing the system and recognizing we don’t want to privatize the system … that progress is being made in a lot of areas,” NBAA President Ed Bolen told your host afterwards. “But we need to do more, so the status quo is not acceptable.” He added: “It’s a matter of being clear about what the goal is and keeping a focus on accountability on that.”

FOR YOUR RADAR: The House Appropriations Transportation-HUD Subcommittee could mark up its bill for fiscal 2019 as early as the week after lawmakers return from recess. “We don’t have the allocations yet,” Chairman Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) said, but “if it’s higher, we can spend it; if it’s lower, we can adjust.“

DHS DRONE UPDATE: House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) said he has written a draft proposal to give DHS authority to interdict drones and has shared it with the department. He does not yet have a timeline for introducing the bill but said that, unlike a White House legislative proposal that has been circulating among industry groups, his bill would not include the Department of Justice. That portion will be left to the Judiciary Committee, he said.

PRECHECK YOURSELF BEFORE YOU WRECK YOURSELF: Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.) told House Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen at a hearing Thursday that he’s tired of waiting for TSA to stop using PreCheck lanes for people not enrolled in the program. "We’ve made it clear to TSA that we’re going to introduce some legislation to make it mandatory that you not do that," he said. Katko later told our Stephanie Beasley that the bill would create a "bright line" barring the practice.

TAKE IT ALL BACK: California Republicans are doubling down on making the state’s 2017 fuel tax hike a campaign issue during a cycle where the party is expected to take a hit nationally, the LA Times reports, and they’re “on the verge” of submitting at least 830,000 signatures to get a ballot initiative repealing the levy in front of voters in November. The measure would be a constitutional amendment that also would require voter approval for any future gas tax increases. “Top Republicans have donated, with House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield giving $400,000. … [H]undreds of thousands more were donated by other GOP congressional candidates,” according to the report.

Wait a second: If this makes it onto the ballot and passes, Californians will have undone something that’s at the core of the Trump administration’s infrastructure plan: getting state and local governments to raise more of their own money to pay for infrastructure needs. The billions expected to funnel into state coffers from the levies would go toward road and bridge work, as well as mass transit projects.

ENGINE MAKER: INSPECTIONS ‘ON TRACK’: CFM International tweeted Thursday that operators are “on track to comply” with the emergency airworthiness directive stemming from Southwest Airlines Flight 1380. Per the tweet, they “have completed more than 60%” of the ultrasonic fan blade inspections that the FAA ordered. The AD gave operators until May 10 to do the inspections of CFM56-7B engines with 30,000 cycles or more.

Meanwhile: While Southwest hasn’t recently discovered signs of metal fatigue on fan blades, it did find a damaged blade in 2017, Bloomberg reports. Southwest is inspecting all of its CFM56-7B engines, going beyond the FAA directive, and has about 10,000 blades to go. It had checked about 17,000 prior to the engine failure on April 17, when it started “accelerated inspections.”

STATUS — DELAYED: FRA is delaying by another year the compliance deadlines for a final rule setting minimum training standards for safety-related railroad workers, according to a pre-publication notice in the Federal Register. Short-line railroads had petitioned for additional time to develop model training programs to fulfill the regulation’s requirements.