Braun lands Democrats for air travel safety act
WASHINGTON (WISH) — Close calls in the air and on the nation’s runways have led to a rare bipartisan push to make air travel safer.
U.S. Sen. Mike Braun (R-IN) says he has lined up support from both sides of the Congressional aisle for the “Air Traffic Controllers Hiring Act of 2023,” which he introduced Wednesday.
The act consists of a single sentence, requiring the FAA to max out recruiting and hiring for the critical jobs that coordinate takeoffs, landings, and flight patterns in the air.
In a statement announcing the act, Braun said, “At a time when air traffic controller workforce is below national standards, Congress needs to do its part to help alleviate employment shortages and make sure United States aviation operations are living up to America’s gold standard for air travel.”
A series of high-profile close calls led the FAA in August to schedule “Runway Action Safety Team” meetings at 90 airports, including Terre Haute Regional Airport and Monroe County Airport, by the end of this month.
Braun’s act has support from fellow Republicans Roger Marshall of Kansas and John Boozman of Arkansas. Democrats who have signed on include New Hampshire’s Jeanne Shaheen, New Mexico’s Ben Rey Luján, and Minnesota’s Amy Klobuchar.
Luján points to the economy and travel efficiency as keys for his support: “Air travel helps connect our communities and boost local economies – none of which could be done without air traffic controllers working to ensure safe and reliable transportation. Air traffic controllers are vital to the flow of air travel, and with work shortages come significant impacts on travel.”
The act echoes one of the main promises in a new aviation safety initiative from the Biden administration which also calls for improvements to technology and towers across the airport system.
At this point, both Braun’s act and Biden’s plan are symbolic shows of support for increased hiring, as neither measure provides the money necessary to make it happen. The dollars would have to come through a budget process that is already proving to be a bruising battle, with the country facing a possible government shutdown in the coming days.
Braun, who defeated incumbent Sen. Joe Donnelly in 2018 to join the Senate, is running for Indiana governor and will not seek reelection in 2024.