The Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA), Airlines for America (A4A), and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) called on Congress to reverse legislation that limits the ability of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to regulate all aspects of drone operations.
In a letter to Members of Congress, the leading U.S. aviation safety stakeholders urged lawmakers to modify Section 336 of the 2012 FAA Modernization and Reform Act that restricts the FAA from applying any rules or regulations to those operating unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) for recreation or as a hobby. The current restriction by Congress has limited the FAA’s ability to fully regulate UAS to the point that safety of the national airspace is at risk.
“Small drones are very difficult to visually acquire by pilots in flight or by air traffic controllers in the tower, and small drones do not currently have electronic anti-collision technologies that are compatible with airline collision avoidance systems. However, equipped with anti-collision technology, flight crews would likely be aware of the drone’s proximate location soon enough to take evasive action that would ensure that there was no threat of collision with the drone,” said ALPA president Capt. Tim Canoll, A4A CEO Nicholas Calio, and NATCA President Paul Rinaldi in a joint letter.
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For the second time in just a few months, a recently reported incident between a UAS and an aircraft has put the spotlight on the need for the FAA to fully regulate UAS operations to ensure the safety of the national airspace system. The most recent concerning event has been widely shared as a video on the internet, where the drone captures video of an airline aircraft (flown by ALPA members and controlled by NATCA air traffic controllers) flying just a few feet under the hovering drone as the airliner approaches an airport for landing. The aircraft does not appear to take any evasive actions, likely because the flight crew was not aware of the drone’s proximate location.
“We strongly urge you to remove legislative restrictions that have been placed on the FAA that limit its safety oversight of UAS. The likelihood that a drone will collide with an airline aircraft is increasing. By providing the FAA with the full authority to regulate all UAS operations, the safety of passenger and cargo flights will be protected,” the aviation safety organizations said in their letter.
Founded in 1931, ALPA is the largest airline pilot union in the world and represents over 59,000 pilots at 33 U.S. and Canadian airlines. Visit the ALPA website at alpa.org or follow us on Twitter @WeAreALPA.
The original letter can be found here.