Bill summaries are authored by CRS.

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Reported to Senate amended (07/30/1998)

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

Title I: Authorizations

Title II: Airport Improvement Program Amendments

Title III: Amendments to Aviation Law

Title IV: Title 49 Technical Corrections

Title V: Miscellaneous

Title VI: Aviation Competition Promotion

Title VII: National Parks Overflights

Title VIII: Aviation Trust Fund Amendments

Wendell H. Ford National Air Transportation System Improvement Act of 1998 - Title I: Authorizations - Amends the Federal Aviation Act of 1958 to authorize appropriations for FY 1999 through 2002 for Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) operations. Earmarks amounts for: (1) wildlife hazard mitigation measures and management of the wildlife strike database of the FAA; and (2) the establishment of a university consortium to provide an air safety and security management certificate program in cooperation with the FAA and U.S. air carriers.

(Sec. 102) Amends Federal aviation law to authorize appropriations for FY 1999 through 2002 for: (1) the FAA Facilities and Equipment Program; and (2) continuation through FY 2002 of the instrument landing system inventory program. Directs the Administrator of the FAA to establish life-cycle cost estimates for any air traffic control modernization project in which such costs equal or exceed $50 million.

(Sec. 103) Authorizes appropriations for FY 1999 through 2002 for airport planning and development and noise compatibility planning programs.

(Sec. 105) Directs the Secretary of Transportation, in order to improve security at U.S. public airports, to carry out at least one project to test and evaluate innovative airport security systems and related technology. Authorizes appropriations.

(Sec. 106) Authorizes appropriations to the Secretary to carry out the Federal Contract Tower Program.

Title II: Airport Improvement Program Amendments - Removes the maximum cap on airport improvement funds credited to the discretionary fund.

(Sec. 202) Authorizes the Secretary of Transportation to carry out a demonstration program of up to 20 projects for grants to implement innovative financing techniques for airport development projects.

(Sec. 203) Limits to no more than 90 percent the Federal share of costs for certain airport projects.

(Sec. 204) Increases the apportionment for airport improvement grant funds for airport noise compatibility programs.

(Sec. 205) Authorizes the use of airport improvement funds apportioned to Alaska, Hawaii, or Puerto Rico for any of their public airports. Authorizes the use of the supplemental apportionment of airport improvement funds for Alaska for any of its public airports.

Repeals a certain limitation on the apportionment of airport improvement funds for commercial airports in Alaska.

Revises the amount of certain funds apportioned to the discretionary and small airport funds. Authorizes the Secretary to distribute a certain percentage of funds from the small airport fund for grants for projects at small hub airports.

Declares that an airport development project shall remain eligible for funding from the discretionary fund (subject to the availability of funds) even though the status of the airport project changes from a primary airport to a non-primary airport.

Revises, for purposes of grant eligibility for airport development funds, the definition of "public-use airport" to include a privately-owned airport that, as a reliever airport, received Federal aid for airport development before October 9, 1996, but only if the Administrator of the FAA issues revised administrative guidance after July 1, 1998, for the designation of reliever airports.

Repeals the eligibility of reliever airports for the issuance of a letter of intent to obligate airport development funds.

Prohibits the collection of a passenger facility fee from a passenger in Alaska aboard an aircraft having a seating capacity of less than 20 passengers.

Permits certain regulations promulgated by the Secretary to authorize a public agency to request waiver of a passenger facility fee for: (1) any class of domestic or foreign air carriers that enplane not more than specified percent of the total number of passengers enplaned annually at a airport; or (2) passengers enplaned on a flight to an airport with scheduled passenger service but fewer than 2,500 passenger boardings each year, or in a community with a population of less than 10,000 and not connected by land to the National Highway System.

Grants priority (except for requests from another Federal agency or instrumentality) to a request by a public agency for surplus property for use at a public airport.

Increases the apportionment of airport improvement funds to sponsors of cargo-only airports.

Declares that the Secretary may permit the use of State highway specifications for airfield pavement construction using airport development funds at non-primary airports with runways of 5,000 feet or shorter serving aircraft that do not exceed 60,000 pounds, if the Secretary determines that: (1) safety will not be negatively affected; and (2) the life of the pavement will not be shorter than it would be if constructed using FAA standards. Prohibits an airport from seeking airport development funds for runway rehabilitation or reconstruction of any such airfield pavement constructed using State highway specifications for a period of ten years after construction is completed.

(Sec. 207) Directs the Secretary to report to specified congressional committees on FAA efforts to implement capacity improvements, such as precision runway monitoring systems and the time frame for implementation of such improvements.

(Sec. 208) Directs the Administrator of the FAA to discourage airport sponsors and airports from using discretionary funds for lower priority projects by giving lower priority to discretionary projects they have submitted which have used entitlement funds for projects with a lower priority than the projects for which discretionary funds are being requested.

(Sec. 209) Prohibits the Secretary from waiving certain required assurances that property be used for aeronautical purposes with respect to the grant of airport development funds, unless the Secretary provides public notice at least 30 days before issuing such waiver.

(Sec. 210) Amends Federal aviation safety law to revise the term "public aircraft" to include non-government-owned aircraft transporting passengers if the aircraft is operated for prisoner transport.

(Sec. 211) Authorizes the Secretary, in order to enable additional air service by an air carrier with less than 50 percent of the scheduled passenger traffic at an airport, to consider the shell of a terminal building (including heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) to be an eligible airport-related project.

Title III: Amendments to Aviation Law - Amends Federal aviation law to authorize the Administrator of the FAA to contract for procurement of severable services for a period that begins in one fiscal year and ends in the next fiscal year if (without regard to any option to extend it) the contract period does not exceed one year. Declares that funds available for a fiscal year may be obligated for the total amount of the contract.

(Sec. 302) Amends the Airport Noise and Capacity Act to make foreign air carriers eligible for a waiver from stage three noise level requirements for certain aircraft.

(Sec. 303) Authorizes the Administrator of the FAA to establish consortia of government and aviation industry representatives at airports to provide advice on matters related to aviation security and safety.

(Sec. 304) Authorizes the Administrator of the FAA to enter into bilateral agreements with the aeronautical authorities of another country to exchange with that country all or part of their respective functions and duties with respect to certain domestic and foreign aircraft.

(Sec. 305) Exempts from overflight fees for air traffic control and related services any overflights that take off and land in a country contiguous to the United States if: (1) both the origin and destination of such flights are within that other country; (2) that country exempts similar categories of flights operated by U.S. citizens from such fees; and (3) that country exchanges responsibility for air traffic control services with the United States.

(Sec. 306) Amends the Pilot Records Improvement Act to require an employment investigation (including a criminal history check) in the case of passenger, baggage, or property screening at airports if the Administrator of the FAA decides it is necessary to ensure air transportation security. Permits an air carrier that has not obtained information about a pilot from a foreign government or entity that has employed the pilot to allow such pilot to begin service as a pilot of certain small aircraft if the carrier has made a documented good faith attempt to obtain it.

(Sec. 307) Authorizes a person to bring a civil action in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims (as well as in a U.S. district court) against the United States when: (1) the person is subrogated to the rights against the U.S. Government of a party insured under the aviation insurance program under a contract between the person and such insured party; and (2) the person has paid to the insured party an amount for a covered physical damage loss.

Extends Federal aviation insurance and reinsurance programs through FY 2003.

Title IV: Title 49 Technical Corrections - Sets forth certain technical corrections to specified sections of Title 49 of the United States Code.

Title V: Miscellaneous - Directs the Administrator of the FAA to report to specified congressional committees every three months on electronic data processing problems associated with the year 2000 (Y2K problem) within the FAA.

(Sec. 502) Directs the Administrator of the FAA to require by regulation that collision avoidance equipment (TCAS II) be installed on each cargo aircraft with a payload capacity of 15,000 kilograms or more.

(Sec. 503) Directs the Administrator of the FAA to initiate rulemaking to amend the regulations in part 139 of title 14, Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) to: (1) improve runway safety areas; and (2) require the installation of precision approach path indicators.

(Sec. 504) Makes applicable to other specified types of aircraft (currently exempted from them) certain requirements that commercial aircraft be outfitted with an emergency locator transmitter. (Continues to exempt from such requirements aircraft used in flight operations related to design and testing, the manufacture, preparation, and delivery of aircraft, or the aerial application of a substance on agricultural crops.)

(Sec. 505) Prohibits the Administrator from issuing a certificate to any person convicted of a violation of any Federal or State law relating to the installation, production, repair, or sale of a counterfeit or falsely represented aviation part or material. Directs the Administrator of the FAA to revoke such certificates issued to convicted persons. Prohibits the employment of an individual to perform a function related to the procurement, sale, production, or repair of a part or material, or the installation of a part into a civil aircraft, who has been convicted of such violations.

(Sec. 506) Subjects any individual who interferes with the duties or responsibilities of the flight crew or cabin crew of a civil aircraft, or who poses an imminent threat to the safety of the aircraft or other individuals on the aircraft, to a civil penalty of not more than $10,000.

(Sec. 507) Directs the Secretary to work with appropriate international organizations and aviation authorities of other nations to bring about their establishment of higher standards for accommodating handicapped passengers in air transportation, particularly with respect to foreign air carriers that code-share with domestic air carriers.

(Sec. 508) Authorizes the Secretary to request the head of the department, agency, or instrumentality to convey land or airspace owned or controlled by it to a public agency for use that will complement, facilitate, or augment airport development, including the development of additional revenue from both aviation and nonaviation sources if the Secretary determines, among other things, that such property is no longer needed for aeronautical purposes, and that it will be used to generate revenue for the public airport.

(Sec. 509) Directs the Administrator of the FAA to issue a notice of proposed rulemaking to develop procedures to protect air carriers and their employees from civil enforcement action under the Flight Operations Quality Assurance program.

(Sec. 510) Directs the Administrator of the FAA to identify or develop a plan to implement the wide area augmentation system (WAAS) to provide navigation and landing approach capabilities for civilian use and make a determination as to whether a backup system is necessary. Authorizes appropriations.

(Sec. 511) Directs the Administrator of the FAA to reissue, and provide for public comment on, the notice to operators published in the Federal Register on January 2, 1998, which advised Alaska guide pilots of the applicability of part 135 of CFR title 14 to guide pilot operations.

(Sec. 513) Directs the Administrator of the FAA to establish an advanced qualification program oversight committee to give advice on the development and execution of Advanced Qualification Program (alternative method for qualifying, training, certifying, and ensuring the competency of flight crews and other commercial aviation operations personnel (human factors training program)) for air carriers, and to encourage their adoption and implementation.

(Sec. 514) Directs the Inspector General of the Department of Transportation (DOT) to initiate an independent assessment that ensures that the method for capturing and distributing overall FAA costs is appropriate and reasonable. Authorizes appropriations.

(Sec. 515) Provides for the enforcement of whistleblower laws for FAA employees.

(Sec. 516) Directs the Administrator of the FAA to report to the Congress on a plan to modernize the oceanic air traffic control system (including a budget for such program).

(Sec. 517) Directs the Administrator of the FAA to report biannually to the Congress on the air transportation oversight system program announced by the FAA on May 13, 1998, in detail on the training of inspectors, the number of them using the system, air carriers subject to the system, and the budget for the system.

(Sec. 518) Declares that the Secretary may authorize the use, in whole or in part, of a completed environmental assessment or environmental impact study for a new airport construction project that is substantially similar in nature to one previously constructed pursuant to a completed assessment or study in order to avoid unnecessary duplication of expense and effort.

(Sec. 519) Prohibits air carriers, contractors, and subcontractors from discharging or otherwise discriminating against an employee as to pay, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment because the employee: (1) is about to provide or has provided to the Federal Government information relating to any violation of any FAA order, regulation, or standard or any other Federal law relating to air carrier safety; or (2) is about to file or has filed a proceeding, or testified, or otherwise participated in a proceeding relating to such violations.

Sets forth a Department of Labor complaint procedure for persons who believe they have been discharged or discriminated against in violation of this Act. Provides for award of attorney's fees of up to $5,000 to a prevailing employer for any such complaint found frivolous or brought in bad faith.

Specifies civil penalties for violation of this Act.

Title VI: Aviation Competition Promotion - Directs the Secretary to establish a pilot aviation development program to provide $30 million over four years to up to 40 small communities or consortia of communities and States with inadequate access to the national transportation system to improve their access to such system.

(Sec. 603) Directs the Administrator of the FAA, in order to facilitate the use of, and improve the safety at, small airports, to establish a pilot program (community-carrier air service program) to contract for Level I air traffic control services at 20 facilities not eligible for participation in the Federal Contract Tower Program. Waives the State or local contribution requirement with respect to such program.

(Sec. 604) Authorizes appropriations for FY 1999 through 2002 for the community-carrier air service program.

(Sec. 605) Directs the Secretary to review the marketing practices of air carriers that may inhibit the availability of quality, affordable air transportation services to small and medium-sized communities. Requires the Secretary, if such practices are found to inhibit the availability of such service, to promulgate regulations to address the problem.

(Sec. 606) Requires the Secretary, after receiving an application for an exemption to provide nonstop regional jet air service between an airport smaller than a large hub airport and a high density airport, to grant or deny the exemption in accordance with established principles of safety and the promotion of competition. Authorizes the Secretary to permit: (1) an air carrier to upgrade its service under the exemption to a larger jet aircraft; and (2) an air carrier to change the nonhub airport or small hub airport for which the exemption was granted to provide the same service to a different airport that is smaller than a large hub airport, if certain conditions are met. Provides for the termination of an exemption if the air carrier uses the slot for any purpose other than the purpose for which it was granted.

Prohibits the Secretary from withdrawing a slot from a U.S. air carrier in order to provide a slot to a foreign air carrier unless the Secretary finds that: (1) the withdrawal of that slot from the U.S. air carrier will not adversely affect air service to nonhub airports; and (2) U.S. air carriers seeking slots at an airport in the home country of the foreign air carrier receive reciprocal treatment by the government of that country.

(Sec. 607) Directs the Secretary, subject to specified conditions, to grant exemptions from the prohibitions against the operation of aircraft nonstop between Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and another airport more than 1,250 miles away (perimeter rule), and against the increase or decrease by the Administrator in the number of takeoffs and landings (the High Density Rule), to any air carrier that operates limited frequencies and aircraft on select routes between National Airport and domestic hub airports. Mandates such an exemption if the Secretary finds that it will: (1) provide air transportation service with domestic network benefits in areas beyond the perimeter; and (2) increase competition in multiple markets. Sets forth specified requirements with respect to such exemptions.

Directs the Secretary to: (1) grant exemptions from the High Density Rule to commuter air carriers (not including Stage 3 aircraft) for service to airports smaller than large hub airports within the perimeter established for aircraft at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport; and (2) develop criteria for distributing slots for flights within the perimeter to airports other than large hubs in a manner consistent with the promotion of air transportation.

(Sec. 608) Authorizes the Secretary to grant 100 additional slots over a three-year period to air carriers to operate limited frequencies and aircraft on select routes between O'Hare Airport, Chicago, Illinois, and other airports if certain conditions are met.

(Sec. 609) Declares that it shall be an unfair or deceptive practice for any carrier utilizing electronically transmitted tickets to fail to notify the purchaser of a ticket's expiration date, if any.

(Sec. 610) Defines major air carrier joint venture agreements as agreements with regard to code-sharing, blocked-space arrangements, long-term wet leases of a substantial number of aircraft, or frequent flyer programs, or any other cooperative working arrangement between two or more major air carriers that affects more than 15 percent of the total number of available seat miles offered by such carriers. Requires any major air carrier that has entered into such an agreement to submit to the Secretary certain information regarding it.

(Sec. 611) Directs the Secretary to study and report to specified congressional committees on the efficacy of a program of Federal loan guarantees for the purchase of regional jets by commuter air carriers that service underserved markets.

(Sec. 612) Directs the General Accounting Office (GAO) to study the effectiveness of the national air transportation system and its ability to meet the air transportation needs of the United States over the next 15 years.

Title VII: National Parks Overflights - Prohibits a commercial air tour operator from conducting commercial air tour operations over a national park or tribal lands, except in accordance with this Act, conditions prescribed for that operator by the Administrator of the FAA, and with any applicable commercial air tour management plan for the park or tribal lands.

(Sec. 702) Sets forth specified requirements with respect to: (1) the granting of authority to commercial air tour operators to conduct air tour operations over national parks or tribal lands, with specified exceptions; and (2) establishment of commercial air tour management plans.

Exempts from the requirements of this Act: (1) the Grand Canyon National Park, or any Indian country within or abutting such park; or (2) any land or waters located in Alaska.

(Sec. 703) Directs the Administrator of the FAA and the Director of the National Park Service (Director) to establish, jointly, an advisory group to provide continuing advice and counsel with respect to the operation of commercial air tours over and near national parks.

Directs the Administrator of the FAA and the Director to report jointly to the Congress on the effectiveness of this Act in providing incentives for the development and use of quiet aircraft technology.

(Sec. 704) Directs the Administrator of the FAA to report to the Congress on the effects proposed overflight fees are likely to have on the commercial air tour industry.

Title VIII: Aviation Trust Fund Amendments - Amends the Internal Revenue Code to extend the expenditure authority of the Airport and Airway Trust Fund through October 1, 2002.