Legislation Important to Local Miss. Airports, Ongoing Leadership in Unmanned Aerial System Development

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) today voted for a five-year reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and important programs for the operation of local airport facilities throughout Mississippi.

The Senate on Wednesday voted 93-6 to complete congressional work on the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 (HR.302).  The five-year reauthorization package now goes to the President for his consideration.

“Local airports serve an important role as economic and public safety assets for communities across the state.  This legislation, which includes customer service reforms, will provide greater certainty not just for airport operators, but also the passengers and customers who rely on them,” Hyde-Smith said.

“Mississippi State University and other institutions are established leaders in the development and integration of unmanned aerial systems.  The use of drones to improve public safety, agriculture and other uses will only increase,” she said.  “I’m pleased that this bill strengthens efforts to continue the safe and efficient integration of these systems into the national airspace.”

Overall, the bill streamlines and reforms the FAA regulations, creates customer service protections, and requires improvements with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA.).

The following are among the FAA programs in HR.302 that are of importance to Mississippi:

  • Airport Improvement Program (AIP) – Reauthorizes stable grant funding for public use airports of all sizes for planning and development purposes.  Airports throughout Mississippi receive AIP grants for facility development and safety enhancements. Mississippi airports received $45.4 million dollars in AIP grants in FY2018.
  • Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) – Integrates civil UAS into the national airspace system and recognizes the growing importance of UAS in disaster response.  The FAA UAS Center of Excellence led by Mississippi State University continues to work to identify issues critical to the safe integration of UAS into the nation's airspace and engage in research and policy development on the expanding use of unmanned aircraft.
  • Essential Air Service Program (EAS) – Reauthorizes this program that supports passenger air service at regional airports.  In Mississippi, airports in Greenville, Hattiesburg/Laurel, Meridian, and Tupelo benefit from the EAS. Under this title, the Small Community Air Service Development Program is also reauthorized.
  • FAA Contract Towers – Reauthorizes this program, which contracts with privately-operated control towers to provide air traffic services to aircraft. This program affects facilities at the Golden Triangle Regional, Greenville Municipal, Hawkins Field in Jackson, Meridian/Key Field, Olive Branch, Stennis International, and Tupelo Regional airports.

As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Hyde-Smith helps determine funding levels for FAA programs.  She currently serves as a conference committee member working to negotiate a final agreement on an appropriations package that includes FAA funding within the FY2019 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Bill.