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Senate Passes Schatz Provisions To Improve Air Tour Safety, Address Air Noise In Hawai‘i In FAA Reauthorization Bill

Additional Schatz-Led Provisions to Improve Airport Resilience, Strengthen Consumer Protections For Air Travelers Also Included; Bill Now Heads to House Of Representatives For Consideration

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Senate today passed the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2024, which included several provisions authored by U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i), a senior member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. The bill contains measures to address air tour noise in Hawai‘i, improve air tour safety, help airports adapt to extreme weather, and establish a Senate-confirmed Assistant Secretary at the Department of Transportation’s Office of Aviation Consumer Protection. The bill now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.

“These provisions will help make air tours in Hawai‘i safer and less noisy as well as help airports across our state become more resilient to disasters,” said Senator Schatz. “We’re also making meaningful investments to empower the Department of Transportation to advocate on behalf of air travelers more effectively and strengthen consumer protections.”

Specifically, the provisions:

  1. Direct the FAA to participate in the State of Hawai‘i’s air noise and safety task force and recommend ways to reduce the disruption that air tours can cause residents.
  2. Require stronger safety requirements for commercial air tours and helicopter operations through increased FAA oversight, equipment upgrades and flight data monitoring.
  3. Ensure airport projects that would improve resilience to sea level rise and extreme weather are eligible for funding under the FAA’s Airport Improvement Program, which will enable work to make Hawaii’s airports safer in the face of climate change.
  4. Authorize the Department of Transportation’s Office of Aviation Consumer Protection to be led by a Senate-confirmed Assistant Secretary and supported by $70 million over five years in authorized funding.

Hawai‘i has the highest number of fatalities from air tour crashes in the nation, totaling over 85 people since the National Transportation Safety Board began keeping records. Schatz originally introduced the Air Tour and Skydiving Safety Improvement Act and the Hawai‘i Air Tour Management Act with the Hawai‘i congressional delegation following multiple fatal helicopter crashes in the state in 2019. Schatz also previously introduced the Natural Hazard Resilience for Airports Act with Senator Ted Budd (R-N.C.) following concerns that FAA programs were not set up well to allow Hawaii’s airports to build resiliently. Finally, Schatz led six Democrats and worked with consumer protection advocates to introduce the Improved Transportation Consumer Protection Act in the face of worsening airline passenger experiences in recent years.