Following Mike Whitaker’s nomination to lead FAA, the Biden-Harris Administration announces new actions to maintain and improve aviation safety
Following President Biden’s nomination of Mike Whitaker to lead the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the Biden-Harris Administration is announcing new actions and investments to maintain and improve aviation safety – which builds on the $25 billion in investments in airport infrastructure from the Administration’s Investing in America agenda. These initiatives will further enhance safety while fostering new technology and expanding the economic benefits of American aviation.
However, the Administration cannot do this alone. Congress must also commit to supporting the FAA’s safety efforts. Without sufficient funding levels and continued investment in safety, the current standard Americans expect could be jeopardized in the future. That is also why Congress should move immediately to confirm Mike Whitaker. At a time when the FAA faces unprecedented challenges and opportunities—thanks to quickly evolving technology and all-time high demand for air travel— Whitaker’s extensive leadership and aviation experience are critical.
Safety Investment Initiatives
U.S. airspace is the safest in the world because of our unwavering focus on the highest standards, as well as our commitment to stay vigilant and address potential risks. Building on that commitment, today the Biden-Harris Administration is announcing a $26 million investment to improve aviation safety:
1) Surface Awareness Initiative – To improve controller situational awareness and reduce close-calls on the runway, the FAA will deploy surface surveillance systems to airports that do not already have this technology.
2) Approach Runway Verification – To prevent incorrect runway landings that can result in close-calls, the FAA will expand its terminal automation system, which will provide Air Traffic Controllers alerts about aircraft alignments, to 84 airports.
3) Runway Incursion Device – The FAA will deploy a memory aid device used by controllers for occupied and closed runways to 72 additional airports. This device provides a visual and audible alert to remind controllers to check the runway before issuing clearances.
Biden-Harris Administration Actions to Date
Since Day 1, the Biden-Harris Administration has acted to maintain and improve aviation safety.
The Biden-Harris Administration is making critical investments, including:
$15 billion through the President’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to upgrade airport infrastructure, including runway and taxiway safety enhancement projects such as:
Dickinson/Theodore Roosevelt Regional Airport, Dickinson, North Dakota—$2 million for runway extension, runway vertical/visual guidance system installation, and to reconstruct taxiway and runway lighting.
Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, Texas—$30 million to construct aircraft rescue & firefighting building.
Marshall Don Hunter Sr Airport, Marshall, Alaska—$16 million for runway lighting, runway rehabilitation, and surface projects.
Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport, Birmingham, Alabama—$3 million to construct/extend/improve safety area.
$5 billion through the President’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to upgrade FAA-owned airport traffic control towers. The focus on backlog items will help to improve safety and security.
$121 million for airports to reduce runway risk, including projects to reconfigure taxiways, install new lighting systems, and provide more flexibility on the airfield. This includes:
Boston Logan International, Massachusetts—$44.9 million to simplify airfield layout.
Willow Run Airport, Detroit, Michigan—$12.8 million to construct a 6,720-foot parallel Taxiway A to eliminate the need for aircraft to back-taxi on the runway.
Naples Municipal Airport, Florida—$3.5 million to improve non-standard pavement geometry and reconstruct 3,000 feet of the existing service road to enable the safe movement of vehicles and ground service equipment.
Hiring 1,500 air traffic controllers in 2023 to provide needed capacity nationwide.
Maintaining the Highest Standards
In 2023, the FAA has taken a number of actions to ensure that we continue to uphold the highest safety standards. This includes the National Safety Summit—the first of its kind since 2009—which brought together more than 200 aviation safety leaders from across the industry to discuss ways to enhance flight safety. In addition, the FAA:
Formed an independent Safety Review Team that will present concrete recommendations on how the FAA can continue to enhance safety.
Launched Stand Up for Safety Campaign, in collaboration with the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA), which included mandatory special emphasis training for the controller workforce.
Issued safety directives to airlines with specific safety steps for pilots, airlines, and others to take to reinforce proper procedure and awareness.
Facilitating approximately 90 runway safety meetings at airports across the country, including LaGuardia Airport, Dallas Fort Worth International Airport, and Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall, to identify and address airport-specific risk in the surface environment.
The Biden-Harris Administration is asking Congress to take similar steps to ensure the safety of Americans and the success of American aviation:
1) Quickly confirm Mike Whitaker to lead the FAA. The FAA has been without permanent leadership for nearly a year and a half, after undeserved attacks against, and procedural obstruction of, the President’s prior nominee.
2) Reauthorize the FAA in a timely manner. The Administration is focused on ensuring that the aviation sector works well for the American people, and reauthorizing the FAA in a timely manner will help achieve that goal. If there is a lapse in authorization, the FAA would not be able to collect revenues used to fund the national airspace system. This means an average of about $1.5 billion per month would not be collected—money that could have gone to improve the aviation system.
3) Approve the Administration’s budget anomaly requests and keep the government funded. The anomaly requests will allow the FAA to continue to hire to meet the vital goal of 1,800 new air traffic controllers in 2024, and fully support implementation of ongoing airspace safety infrastructure projects. The anomaly requests should be included as part of a forthcoming short-term continuing resolution needed to avoid severe disruptions to government services in the first quarter of the fiscal year.
4) Fully fund the FAA in FY2024 at levels the Administration requested, which includes approximately $456 million that the House did not fund. For example, the House proposed $12 million less for the system that allows airlines to access flight plans, Notice to Air Missions (NOTAMs), and weather information. The Administration’s proposed funding would allow the FAA to immediately make key safety improvements.