Senator Wicker Moves Forward Mississippi Priorities in Major Aviation Legislation

May 9, 2024

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., voted yes on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) legislation that would invest in our aviation systems and airport infrastructure. Senator Wicker fought for several Mississippi priorities to be included in the final bill version. Senator Wicker is a senior member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, which has jurisdiction over the aviation legislation.

“My top priority has been to secure investments for our state’s airports and improve Mississippians’ travel experience. I am glad this bill has advanced, and I will continue working to ensure our airports get the support they need,” Senator Wicker said.

The final bill also included several provisions that would help rural communities and support the growing unmanned aerial systems (UAS) industry in Mississippi.

Among other provisions, the FAA reauthorization includes:

  • Language reauthorizing the Essential Air Service and Small Community Air Service Development programs. The Essential Air Service program was designed to help ensure safe and reliable travel for customers in smaller markets. The Small Community Air Service Development Program supports strategic grants to resolve air service issues.
  • A provision to allow airports transitioning from small hub to medium hub status not to be subject to reduced apportionments for three years following the transition.
  • Reauthorization of the Aviation Workforce Development Grant Program, which awards grants for workforce development programs to support the recruitment, education, and training of pilots, engineers, UAS operators, and aviation maintenance technicians. Pearl River Community College is a recipient of this grant program.
  • A directive to the FAA to issue a rule to streamline the approval of Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) operations. BVLOS refers to the operation of UAS at distances outside the normal visible range of the pilot. 
  • A requirement that the FAA create a comprehensive strategy to integrate UAS safely into the National Airspace and report to Congress on the status of implementation.
  • Language authorizing the continuation of the Center of Excellence for Unmanned Aircraft Systems, housed at Mississippi State University, through 2028. 
  • A provision to establish ASSUREd Safe, a national credentialing authority for first responders’ usage of UAS, which would be housed at the Center of Excellence for Unmanned Aircraft Systems at MSU.