Senator Reverend Warnock Secures Major Wins for Aviation Workforce, Georgia Airports, Travelers in FAA Reauthorization

Senator Reverend Warnock joined his colleagues in successfully passing legislation to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration on Thursday 

Thanks to Senator Reverend Warnock’s leadership, the legislation will strengthen aviation workforce development provisions that will address the current shortage of pilots, mechanics, and manufacturers, and invest in consumer protections and safety for Georgians

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

The Senator also secured five new 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. – Yesterday, U.S. Senator Reverend Raphael Warnock (D-GA), a member of the Commerce committee’s subcommittee on Aviation Safety, Operations, and Innovation, joined his colleagues to pass the 2024 Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization bill, which included provisions championed by Senator Warnock that will transform the aviation industry—including strengthening aviation workforce development provisions that will address the current shortage of pilots, mechanics, and manufacturers, and investing in consumer protections and safety for Georgians. The reauthorization passed by a vote of 88-4. 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. The House of Representatives is expected to pass the Senate-passed reauthorization next week, and the President is expected to sign it into law.

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 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.

“The Federal Aviation Reauthorization is a win-win-win for air travelers, airports, and people who work in the aviation industry,” said Senator Reverend Warnock“Aviation helps keep our communities connected, and the provisions I secured in this bill will help revitalize the industry and support a modern and representative workforce. This legislation will allow aviation schools to more easily train students from all zip codes to work in the aviation industry. This legislation also takes important steps to increase passenger safety on the runways and in the sky, and increases consumer protection to get fliers the refunds they’re owed and help families travel more easily.”

“I’m also thrilled to have secured five additional flights in and out of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. This legislation will increase competition, lower prices, and make the people’s government more accessible to folks around the country.”  

Sen. Warnock’s Top FAA Reauthorization Wins

  • Aviation Workforce Development: As mentioned above, Senator Warnock secured an additional $120 million in the bill for aviation workforce development efforts, for a total of $240 million, by securing an amendment in Committee inspired his AIRWAYS Act;
    1. 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 
    2. 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 secured some certainty that the state legislature cannot wrest control of Hartsfield-Jackson from city of Atlanta control, as it threatens to do every year.
  • Increased Aviation Accessibility to Washington: Through the Senator’s leadership, the bill 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, which will bring millions to the state over the next five years. In the past year alone, AIP has benefited nearly two dozen Georgia airports.
  • Ensuring Safer Skies: The bill 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 bill requires FAA to deploy the latest technologies to prevent collisions.
  • Getting Travelers Refunds: For the first time, this legislation will codify 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 bill 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 legislation creates a new grant program to help airports keep harmful chemicals out of ground water, 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.