WASHINGTON, D.C.—Rep. Greg Stanton criticized Senate gridlock that has left the Federal Aviation Administration running on fumes. While the House passed bipartisan, comprehensive FAA reauthorization legislation in July by a vote of 351 to 69, the Senate has yet to consider the bill. A short-term FAA authorization expires December 31st. 

In a House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee hearing titled “Turbulence Ahead: Consequences of Delaying a Long-Term FAA Bill,” Stanton pointed to increased frequency of near-miss incidents at U.S. airports, driven in large part by air traffic controller shortages. The House-passed FAA Reauthorization takes concrete steps to address staffing challenges, in addition to investing in surface surveillance technology and on-board safety technologies.

Stanton also expressed frustration that his common-sense, bipartisan provisions to make flying safer and more accessible to passengers with disabilities have been left to languish in the Senate. He showed his colleagues a recent viral video of ground crew carelessly tossing a passenger’s wheelchair down a ramp, underscoring the need for additional federal protections for passengers who use mobility aids. 

Video of his remarks is available HERE. Text as prepared is below. 


Thank you Mr. Chairman for holding this hearing and thank you to each of our witnesses for being here today.   

This Committee worked hard to craft a strong, proactive and bipartisan 5-year Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill, and send it to the House floor . . . where it passed overwhelmingly. We did our job. 

But, in the four months since, the Senate hasn’t even held a committee vote on this bill. And because they couldn’t meet their original deadline, the FAA is operating under a short-term extension that expires on New Years Eve, four short weeks away. 

We need to keep our skies safe and our planes running… in part so people can see their friends and families, but also because aviation is a key part of our economy. Arizona’s aviation economy supports nearly 19,000 jobs and contributes billions to the state and country. 

Look, we have the safest and most efficient aviation system in the world. This Thanksgiving was one of the busiest travel days on-record, and the women and men who staff our airports, airlines and air traffic control towers deserve credit for keeping things running smoothly. 

But one of the issues I hear about most often is aviation workforce shortages, particularly air traffic controllers. And overworked, understaffed air traffic control towers are one of the contributing factors leading to the rise in harrowing near-misses at airports nationwide. 

Over the last year, there have been several near-miss incidents at Sky Harbor in Phoenix . . . one of the busiest airports in the world. 

At Phoenix-Mesa Gateway, one of the fastest-growing commercial airports in the country, we just opened a brand new $30 million air traffic control. But staffing shortages have forced the airport to reduce operations at the tower by four hours each day. 

The House’s FAA reauthorization. . . the one the Senate has yet to take action on. . . increases FAA hiring targets for air traffic controllers, sets up workforce development programs to improve recruitment and retention, and sets up pilot program to convert towers staffed by private companies, like Gateway, to be staffed by FAA controllers.

It’s not just airplane safety. . . our bill addresses passenger safety as well, particularly the safety of passengers with disabilities.

Just last week, a video went viral showing ground personnel carelessly throwing a passenger’s wheelchair down a ramp, where it bumped off, and bounced across the tarmac. [VIDEO PLAYS] 

People depend on these devices to move about the world. And these mobility devices aren’t cheap . . . few are less than 100 dollars, and depending on the complexity of the device, it can range into the thousands. 

There needs to be oversight on this carelessness, and I stand ready to work with my colleagues here and with the Department of Transportation to ensure everyone feels safe and able to travel. Our House-passed FAA takes meaningful, common-sense steps—many I was proud to lead on—to improve the flying experience for passengers with disabilities.

My ADAPT Act, WHEELChairs on Airplanes Act, and our Mobility Aids On Board Improve Lives and Empower All, or “MOBILE” Act were included in the House passed bill, so that passengers with mobility issues can have proper accommodations . . . from boarding to seating and everything in between.

I think I speak for all of us here when I say we’ll keep working to get this bill across the finish line. Our economy, and the safety of the flying public, depends on that. 

But we need our colleagues in the Senate to be good partners.