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Bill in D.C. could improve air travel, bring drone research to Mississippi

U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., a member of the Senate’s Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, has voted in favor of a bill to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The bill included several Wicker-sponsored amendments that would guarantee federal support for rural airports, require the review of airline cancellation and change fees, and establish an unmanned systems safety research facility at Mississippi State University.

“The Senate bill to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration would improve the air travel experiences of all Americans,” Wicker said. “This bill sends a strong statement that our rural airports will not be forgotten and should continue to serve an essential role in their communities.”

This bill could also impact your travel budget.

“This bill also would help relieve the pains of many air travelers who are burdened with unreasonable charged by the airlines,” Wicker continued. “With airfare to rural areas already expensive, sky-high fees for last-minute schedule changes can create a significant burden for travelers on a budget.”

The final measure included an amendment co-sponsored by Wicker to require the review of ancillary airline charges like trip cancellation and change fees. The Department of Transportation (DOT) would be required to prescribe regulations to prohibit airlines from imposing fees that are deemed unreasonable or disproportionate to the cost of service.

Wicker also offered an amendment to require the Center of Excellence for Unmanned Aircraft Systems at Mississippi State University to develop a safety research center with the goal of integrating UAS into the national airspace and meeting FAA goals for UAS safety.

Other provisions of the FAA reauthorization bill include:

  • Reauthorizing the Essential Air Service and Small Community Air Service Development programs through 2021. Four airports in Mississippi benefit from the Essential Air Service program, which was designed to help ensure safe and reliable travel for customers in smaller markets. The Small Community Air Service Development Program supports strategic grants to resolve air service issues.
  • Extending support for the FAA Contract Towers (FCT) program, which administers private air traffic control operations in smaller markets to ensure efficient airport operations, public safety, and emergency response. Without the FCT program, pilots would have to communicate with each other directly to avoid collisions and coordinate airport operations. Seven Mississippi airports benefit from the program.

RELATED: Mississippi State named new epicenter of drone safety research

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