Photo by C.Keller, courtesy of Airbus Helicopters
The FAA Reauthorization Bill, H.R. 302, establishes a $5 million pilot grant program to help remedy a coming shortage of rotorcraft pilots and mechanics over the next decade and a half.
Section 625 of the bill, spearheaded by Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, would allow air carriers, labor unions representing pilots, flight schools, institutions of higher education and secondary schools, to receive up to $500,000 in training grants.
In March, a study by Helicopter Association International and the University of North Dakota projected a shortage of 7,469 rotorcraft pilots and 40,613 certified rotorcraft and fixed-wing maintenance technicians by 2036.
"60 percent of our members have trouble finding qualified pilots and mechanics," said Cade Clark, VP of governmental affairs at HAI. "We have a tremendous pipeline problem."
The FAA bill, now headed to the White House for presidential signature, also makes important changes regarding unmanned aircraft systems. The measure allows the FAA to regulate commercial UAS and modifies Section 336 in the previous FAA reauthorization bill in 2012 that had prohibited such regulation.
The bill would allow the registration and ID tracking of drones — a provision that will likely grease the path for the burgeoning urban mobility industry.
The bill also mandates retrofits of crash-resistant fuel tanks on commercial helicopters in the U.S. The FAA administrator "shall expedite the certification and validation of United States and foreign type designs and retrofit kits that improve fuel system crashworthiness" and, within six months, "shall issue a bulletin to inform rotorcraft owners and operators of available modifications to improve fuel system crashworthiness" and "urge that such modifications be installed as soon as practicable."