Kilmer’s Emergency Preparedness Amendment to Protect Airports like Fairchild Cleared for Landing on President’s Desk

WASHINGTON, DC—Today the House of Representatives passed the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018, which authorizes appropriations for the Federal Aviation Administration. The bill includes an amendment authored by Kilmer that requires the FAA to consider community emergency response needs as it determines the amount of funding an airport receives under the Airport Improvement Program (AIP). That requirement will protect regional rural airports in communities like Port Angeles, where Fairchild International Airport is a vital emergency lifeline and economic driver. The bill now heads to the president’s desk where it is expected to be signed into law.

“In rural communities like Port Angeles, the fastest way to get help in an emergency is by air. When Congress and the FAA decide to cut funding for rural airports, they’re actually cutting the length of our runways and the lifelines that keep us safe when the next earthquake or forest fire strikes,” Kilmer said. “I’m glad my amendment will soon be landing on the President’s desk where it will become law. I’ll keep pushing for the region’s rural airports which keep us safe, support local jobs and strengthen our region’s economy.”

Last year, the FAA considered cutting the AIP funding that Fairchild Airport receives which the airport uses to maintain its runway. Kilmer, the Washington National Guard and county and local leaders successfully worked with the FAA to prevent the cuts because it would have resulted in a shorter runway. That, in turn, would have limited the size of planes capable of taking off and landing at the airport in an emergency such as a forest fire or earthquake. The region’s residents also rely on the current runway to quickly reach advanced medical care at hospitals in Seattle and Portland.

Kilmer’s amendment will help protect future funding for Fairchild Airport and airports nationwide that serve a critical role in disaster planning by requiring the FAA to explicitly consider the emergency preparedness needs of the communities served by an airport when reviewing its AIP master plan. In addition, maintaining the current 5,000-foot runway at Fairchild will help support future economic development initiatives being considered by the Port of Port Angeles.

Other wins for the region

In addition to Kilmer’s amendment, the bill includes the following items:

  • A four-year reauthorization for the NTSB, which is tasked with investigating and preventing transportation incidents and accidents.
  • The Disaster Recovery Reform Act (DRRA), which:
    • Establishes investments in pre-disaster mitigation so communities can build stronger, more resilient infrastructure before disaster strikes.
    • Encourages resilient rebuilding as well as the enforcement and implementation of stronger building codes;
    • Authorizes mitigation funding after wildfires on State, local, and private lands; and
    • Clarifies eligibility of earthquake early warning system components for mitigation funds.
  • A number of policy provisions that will make air travel safer and more enjoyable.
    • Requires FAA to set minimum dimensions for passenger seats, including pitch and width;
    • Establishes a new "Aviation Consumer Advocate" position at the Department of Transportation (DOT) to help resolve consumer complaints;
    • Prohibits the involuntary bumping of passengers from flights after their boarding passes have been collected or scanned;
    • Prohibits cell phone calls and the use of e-cigarettes during flights;
    • Prohibits airlines from denying passengers the ability to check baby strollers at the departure gate unless there are safety or security issues;
    • Requires all medium and large U.S. airports to have private rooms for nursing mothers and baby changing tables in at least one restroom in each passenger terminal;
    • Creates a task force on eliminating sexual misconduct on commercial aircraft; and
    • Addresses issues faced by passengers with disabilities, including by requiring DOT to develop an "Airline Passengers with Disabilities Bill of Rights" and creates a civil penalty for damage to passengers' wheelchairs and mobility aids.