BREAKING: Senator Reverend Warnock’s Provisions to Bolster Aviation Workforce, Support Georgia Airports, Travelers Signed Into Law

Today, President Biden signed into law legislation to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration

Thanks to Senator Reverend Warnock’s leadership, the law includes provisions that will strengthen aviation workforce development, and address the current shortage of pilots, mechanics, and manufacturers

The law also includes important safety and consumer protection provisions, supported by Senator Reverend Warnock

The Senator also secured five new roundtrip flights in and out of Washington Reagan National Airport, opening access to the nation’s capital

Senator Reverend Warnock: “The Federal Aviation Reauthorization is a win-win-win for air travelers, airports, and people who work in the aviation industry”

ICYMI: Senator Reverend Warnock Champions FAA Reauthorization on Bloomberg TV

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Reverend Raphael Warnock (D-GA), a member of the Commerce committee’s subcommittee on Aviation Safety, Operations, and Innovation, celebrated President Biden signing the 2024 Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization into law. The new law includes provisions championed by Senator Warnock that will transform the aviation industry by strengthening the aviation workforce pipeline, addressing the current shortage of pilots, mechanics, and manufacturers, and investing in consumer protections and the safety of Georgia travelers. Notably, thanks to Senator Warnock’s leadership, aviation educational institutions will now have access to the resources they need to train the strong, 21st century workforce that will take the industry and economy to greater heights.

“Georgia is the country’s most important aviation state. We’re home to the world’s busiest airport and we have more than 100,000 aviation workers across some 800 different aviation companies,”  said Senator Reverend Warnock. “That’s why I’m thrilled President Biden has signed the FAA Reauthorization into law, including provisions I championed that will strengthen the aviation worker pipeline. This law will modernize our airports, improve the passenger experience, and keep us safe on runways and in the air. I’m proud to have played a role in getting these important policies across the finish line.”

Additionally, Senator Warnock secured critical investments for airport improvement projects in Georgia, which will bring millions of federal dollars to the state over the next five years. These grants will help construct and upgrade aviation infrastructure at the state’s airports—including terminal space, runways, security, and more. The Senator also led the effort to include five new roundtrip flights to Washington’s Reagan National Airport. Lastly, thanks to Senator Warnock’s leadership, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is better positioned to remain in control of the city of Atlanta.

Senator Warnock’s Top FAA Reauthorization Wins

  • Aviation Workforce Development: As mentioned above, Senator Warnock secured an additional $120 million in authorized funding for aviation workforce development efforts, for a total of $240 million, by securing an amendment in Committee inspired his AIRWAYS Act;
  • The Senator took steps to welcome those underrepresented in the industry by securing a provision specifying FAA workforce development investments can be used for programs and projects that encourage minorities and other underrepresented populations to work in the aviation industry, also inspired by his AIRWAYS Act; and 
  • The Senator also secured a separate provision directing the FAA to take actionable steps to connect with underrepresented communities about aviation career opportunities and improve FAA’s Minority Serving Institutions program. 
  • Local Control of Hartsfield-Jackson Airport: After years of disputes, the Senator took steps to help prevent the state legislature from wresting control of Hartsfield-Jackson Airport away from the city of Atlanta.
  • Increased Aviation Accessibility to Washington: Through the Senator’s leadership, the law includes a bipartisan provision to add five roundtrip flights to Reagan National Airport, increasing competition for air travelers and expanding options for Americans to visit their nation’s capital.

Other Tops Wins in the FAA Reauthorization:

  • Updating Georgia’s Airports: Senator Warnock secured an increase in Airport Improvement Program (AIP) funding, the first increase in over 10 years, which will bring millions to the state over the next five years.
  • Ensuring Safer Skies: The law puts significant federal resources towards the hiring, training, and retention of safety-critical staff like air traffic controllers and technical engineers.
  • Reducing Runway “Close Calls”: The law requires FAA to deploy the latest technologies to prevent collisions.
  • Getting Travelers Refunds: For the first time, this law codifies a passenger’s right to a refund when an airline cancels or significantly delays a flight. Refunds will be provided for canceled flights, domestic flights delayed for 3+ hours, and international flights delayed for 6+ hours. If a passenger chooses a credit or voucher instead of a refund, that credit will now be good for 5 years.
  • Keeping Families Together: The law bans airlines from charging extra fees for families to sit together. As a father of two young children, the Senator understands the importance of parents and children sitting together during air travel.  
  • Protecting health and safety of airport communities. Thanks to the Senator’s leadership, the law creates a new grant program to help airports keep harmful chemicals out of groundwater, protecting the safety of the surrounding airport communities.
  • Making Aviation Sustainable: In coordination with Senator Ossoff, the Senator secured an amendment to expand hydrogen research and production for use in aviation: a major step towards a greener aviation future.

Aviation workforce development has long been one of Senator Warnock’s top priorities. Georgia is home to 108,000 aviation employees across 800 different aviation companies, including industry giants such as Delta Airlines and Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation, and is home to Hartfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the world’s busiest airport. However, there is a workforce shortage affecting our aviation industry: Reuters found that aviation employment has dropped more than 8% from pre-pandemic levels. Fueling the aviation workforce shortage is a persistent lack of diversity across the industry—suggesting the industry is currently recruiting too few prospective aviation workers from too narrow a field to meet the industry’s national workforce needs—and weak investments in educational institutions to create a robust pipeline of aviation talent.

That’s why last spring, ahead of consideration of the FAA Reauthorization bill, Senator Warnock introduced the AIRWAYS Act, landmark legislation to provide public and non-profit educational institutions with the resources they need to address the shortage of pilots, mechanics, and manufacturers. The Senator then successfully secured provisions of his legislation in the FAA reauthorization bill—totaling tens of millions of dollars in additional federal investments to expand opportunities for these educational institutions to help establish a more resilient and representative workforce pipeline. 

Last spring, Senator Warnock visited DeKalb-Peachtree Airport (PDK) in Gwinnett County for a roundtable discussion with local aviation workers, leaders, and airport personnel about challenges facing the aviation industry and how federal support can strengthen the local aviation workforce. There, Senator Warnock met Ezekiel Andrews, a soon-to-be pilot who has spent over $100,000 and ten years working to become a pilot. Ezekiel’s story is a prime example of the barriers to entry many underrepresented aviation workers face that is fueling the current aviation workforce shortage. His story further incentivized Senator Warnock to explore federal legislation that would help pilots and aviation workers from underrepresented backgrounds step into good-paying, fulfilling jobs through scholarship opportunities.

Additionally, the Senator recently visited Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport to tour airport improvement projects funded by the Airport Improvement Program (AIP), which the Senator secured increased funding for the next five years. Those funds are currently used to advance critical projects, including improving airport drainage and erosion control.