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Improve FAA Due Process, Transparency - Support the PLANE Act (S. 2453)
Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) introduced the Promoting the Launch of Aviation’s Next Era (PLANE) Act of 2021 (S. 2453) on July 22, 2021.  It includes numerous provisions, including some championed by ARSA, to enhance legal protections for certificate holders, improve FAA transparency, strengthen the aviation workforce and invest in general aviation airports.

Of particular interest:

  • Section 104 of the bill was proposed by ARSA in response to FAA’s uneven handling of petitions for rulemaking and exemptions. FAA would be forced to consider additional factors when deciding whether to act on a petition; specifically: the number of certificate holders directly impacted by the proposed rulemaking, the impact on small business and the number of organizations requesting the rulemaking.  The agency would also be required to designate a single responsible employee to manage each petition, make a decision on whether to grant the petition within 30 days and provide a clear timeline for action.  Regular reports to Congress on the status of petitions would enhance oversight of the agency.
  • Section 105 requires FAA to conclude investigations and make a decision on whether to initiate an enforcement action within two years of a complaint filing or issuance of an order of investigation. It was proposed by ARSA to address the problem of stale letters of investigation (the ones that seem to linger forever with no action or follow-up from the FAA). 
  • Sec. 601 would address FAA’s arbitrary decision to prevent repair stations from voluntarily surrendering their certificates.  In its November 2014 updates to 14 CFR part 145, the FAA took the unprecedented step of subjecting surrendered repair station certificates to “acceptance for cancellation” (see, § 145.55). In 2015, ARSA led an effort calling for the removal of the requirement, since it is unique among aviation certificates, runs counter to the interest of aviation safety and increases regulatory administrative burden without any agency explanation as to how its discretion will be exercised. The initial petition was denied by the FAA and a subsequent request for reconsideration remains unaddressed more than five years after it was filed (which underscores the need for Sec. 104).
  • Sec. 301 would protect FAA designees from civil liability when carrying out their duties, except in cases of intentional or fraudulent misconduct.

 The outlook for the legislation is uncertain.  Major FAA bills were enacted in each of the last two Congresses and with lawmakers focused on surface transportation and Biden administration priorities, there’s minimal bandwidth for aviation policy.  But whether or not the PLANE Act is enacted this Congress, it’s an excellent rallying point for industry stakeholders concerned about FAA’s arbitrary conduct. The more support the PLANE Act gets now, the more likely it is to be included in the next FAA reauthorization bill, which will be debated in 2023. 

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