Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization legislation introduced in the House June 22 would require the Department of Transportation to release regulations prohibiting airborne cellphone voice communications on scheduled passenger flights, except by on-duty flight crew members, attendants, and federal law enforcement officers. However, FAA reauthorization legislation introduced in the Senate yesterday would permit, but not require, DoT to ban such in-flight communications.
The House bill (HR 2997) is the 21st Century Aviation Innovation, Reform, and Reauthorization Act – or the 21st Century AIRR Act. It is sponsored by House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R., Pa.), aviation subcommittee Chairman Frank LoBiondo (R., N.J.) and Vice Chair Paul Mitchell (R., Mich.), and Reps. Colleen Hanabusa (D., Hawaii), Kyrsten Sinema (D., Ariz.), and Sam Graves (R., Mo.).
The Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act of 2017 (S 1405) was introduced by Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee Chairman John Thune (R., S.D.) and ranking member Bill Nelson (D., Fla.), and Sens. Roy Blunt (R., Mo.) and Maria Cantwell (D., Wash.), the respective chairman and ranking member of the aviation operations, safety, & security subcommittee.
The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA praised HR 2997 for the ban on cellphone voice communications during scheduled flights. The Air Line Pilots Association said today that it “supports the provision in HR 2997 (FAA reauthorization) to keep the ban on cellular voice calls in-flight. The ability to make voice calls by passengers may have a negative operational safety impact on the ability of flight crew to perform their required duties. Security of flight is essential and ALPA remains involved with various efforts to maintain and enhance aviation security.” Flight attendants have also said in the past that they support such a ban.
S 1405 also includes a section on spectrum for drones. “Small unmanned aircraft systems may use spectrum for wireless control link, tracking, diagnostics, payload communication, and collaborative-collision avoidance, such as vehicle-to-vehicle communication, and other uses, consistent with the Communications Act of 1934 (47 U.S.C. 151 et seq.), Federal Communications Commission rules, and the safety-of-life determination made by the Federal Aviation Administration, and through voluntary commercial arrangements with service providers, whether they are operating within a UTM [drone traffic management plan] system under section 2208 of the FAA Extension Safety and Security Act of 2016 (Public Law 114–190; 130 Stat. 2 615) or outside such a system,” the bill stipulates.
It directs the FAA, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, and the FCC to prepare a report for Congress within 270 days “(1) on whether small unmanned aircraft systems operations should be permitted to operate on spectrum designated for aviation use, on an unlicensed, shared, or exclusive basis, for operations within the UTM system or outside of such a system; (2) that addresses any technological, statutory, regulatory, and operational barriers to the use of such spectrum; and (3) that, if it is determined that spectrum designated for aviation use is not suitable for operations by small unmanned aircraft systems, includes recommendations of other spectrum frequencies that may be appropriate for such operations.”
HR 2997 also stipulates that a private entity that would operate the nation’s air traffic control system would have access to the FAA’s spectrum systems and any future such systems.- Paul Kirby, email@example.com