Connecting Through Safe Skies

By U.S. Senator Deb Fischer

The U.S. Senate recently passed legislation to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). As the agency that manages the safety and security of our nation’s airspace, the FAA provides Americans with peace of mind as they travel for work, visit family, or take off for getaways all over the world. The legislation we passed in April provides new updates and improvements to our federal aviation laws that will help ensure more families can fly safely for years to come.


According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, in 2015, a record 896 million passengers traversed America’s skies. This aviation system contributes $1.5 trillion to our nation’s economy and supports 11.8 million jobs for hardworking Americans, as noted by the National Air Traffic Controllers Association. Better and safer aviation not only helps traveling families, it also boosts the American economy.

In Nebraska, our airports link local communities with the rest of the nation and the world. But, over the years, these rural and community airports have struggled due to diminished funding and misplaced priorities in Washington. It is time to fix these problems, which is why I worked to include several provisions in the FAA bill. These initiatives will strengthen funding for Nebraska’s rural and community airports and provide certainty for airports in Lincoln and Omaha as well.

For example, the legislation includes an important provision I worked to include, known as the Small Airport Regulation Relief Act. I am cosponsor of a stand-a-lone version of this bill in the Senate, and Congressman Adrian Smith authored companion legislation in the House. Small airports across the country are being threatened by new rules that direct resources to major hubs like Denver and Atlanta. These rules are giving priority to major cities and threatening funding for local airports like Western Nebraska Regional Airport in Scottsbluff. The Small Airport Regulation Relief Act would preserve this funding, under the Airport Improvement Program, and exempt the airport in Scottsbluff from this harmful regulation.

We also need to protect commercial service for rural and small communities in Nebraska and across the country. The Essential Air Service (EAS) program incentivizes passenger carriers to continue providing service to these airports. Under the Senate FAA bill, we included a provision that will allow airports like those in Alliance, Chadron, Grand Island, McCook, North Platte, and Scottsbluff to continue benefiting from this program.

Furthermore, I was successful in including a provision that would assist Central Nebraska Regional Airport in Grand Island. Grand Island’s airport is growing and hosts a privately-operated federal contract tower. The provision I fought for would compel the FAA to complete a cost-benefit analysis, which would help alleviate financial constraints for this local airport.

Additionally, agricultural aviators in Nebraska will also benefit from safety enhancements in the bill. Far too many agricultural pilots have died in recent years after collisions with unmarked utility towers. In light of this, I advanced a provision requiring these towers to be clearly marked, thereby enhancing safer skies for our agriculture pilots.

I am proud of what the Senate has accomplished with the FAA bill. It is truly a victory for Nebraska and the American people. As the legislative process continues, I will work to maintain Nebraska priorities. Through safer skies and peace of mind, we are making progress for the American people.


Thank you for participating in the democratic process. I look forward to visiting with you again next week.



About katcountryhub
I am a graduate of Northeast Community College with a degree in journalism. I am married to Jeff Gilliland. We have two grown children, Justin and Whitney and four grandchildren, Grayce, Grayhm, Charli and Penelope. I will be covering Lyons, Decatur, Bancroft and Rosalie and am hoping to expand my horizons as time progresses!

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