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FAA Reauthorization Act Passes Senate

Feb 28, 2011

The Senate recently passed the FAA Air Transportation Modernization and Safety Improvement Act
The Senate recently passed the FAA Air Transportation Modernization and Safety Improvement Act which contains language that potentially impacts the air medical industry. Section 507 will effectively implement several of the recommendations that were identified following National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) hearings on air medical safety in 2009. If the Bill becomes law, helicopter and fixed wing operators will be required to comply with part 135 of title 14, Code of Federal Regulations, if there is a medical crew on board, without regard to whether there are patients on board; install terrain awareness and warning systems; use a risk evaluation checklist to determine whether a mission should be accepted; implement performance based flight dispatch and flight-following procedures; participate in data collection activities related to the various demographics and the nature and conditions of flights by the service, and; anticipate federal regulations on recording voice communications and flight data information on board aircraft.

Section 717 of the Act compels the Comptroller General to conduct a study of the helicopter and fixed-wing air ambulance industry to include information, analysis, and recommendations pertinent to ensuring a safe air ambulance industry, more specifically “the relationship between State regulation and Federal preemption of rates, routes, and services of air ambulances; (2) the extent to which Federal law may impact existing State regulation of air ambulances and the potential effect of greater State regulation; and (3) whether systemic or other problems exist on a statewide, regional, or national basis with the current system governing air ambulances.” It is noted that this data has previously been reported by the Government Accounting Office (GAO) in GAO-10-907 September 30, 2010 Highlights Page (PDF) or Full Report (PDF, 61 pages).

The $34.6 billion bill reauthorizes the Federal Aviation Administration for two years and sets aviation policies. The House is working on its own version of the bill that would cover four years. The text of the Senate Bill (S. 223) can be found at