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Larsen, Beyer Introduce Bill to Prepare U.S. Aviation for Future Public Health Emergencies

By: Rep. Don Beyer

October 30, 2020

Today, Rep. Rick Larsen (WA-02), Chair of the House Aviation Subcommittee, and Rep. Don Beyer (VA-08) introduced the National Aviation Preparedness Plan Act of 2020, legislation to require the development of a national aviation preparedness plan for future public health emergencies. The bill builds on similar language Larsen championed in the House-passed HEROES Act and the Healthy Flights Act of 2020.

“Lessons learned from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic show the urgent need for a national aviation preparedness plan to ensure the safety of aviation crews, employees and passengers and restore confidence in air travel,” said Chair Larsen. “This bill will bring federal agencies, frontline aviation workers and other key stakeholders to the table to develop a clear, comprehensive plan of action for future outbreaks.”

“Our legislation would require better future preparedness to prevent the spread of disease via air travel during a pandemic,” said Rep. Beyer. “Watchdogs within the U.S. Government and the United Nations have both identified the necessity of a coordinated national strategy to prevent spread of disease by air travel as a crucial element in national and international pandemic response. However, to date, the Administration has taken no steps to implement such a plan. Our legislation would require that they do so as soon as possible, with input from agencies across the government, as well as relevant stakeholders in the aviation sector. Had a national aviation preparedness plan been in place at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we may have seen different results – that is why this legislation is very important both for this pandemic and for future ones.”

The National Aviation Preparedness Plan Act:

  • Requires the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), in collaboration with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and other relevant federal agencies, to develop a national aviation preparedness plan for communicable disease outbreaks.
  • Directs DOT to consult with the U.S. aviation industry, labor unions and other key aviation stakeholders on the development of such a plan; and
  • Calls for a Government Accountability Office (GAO) assessment of the plan, including whether it responds to public health recommendations, meets the nation’s obligations under international conventions and treaties, and the extent to which U.S. aviation is prepared for future public health emergencies.

In 2015, Larsen requested a GAO study on the preparedness of U.S. aviation to handle the spread of a communicable disease during the emergence of the Ebola virus. The GAO recommended that a national aviation preparedness plan would help the U.S. aviation and public health sectors to more effectively coordinate on response efforts, while minimizing disruptions to the national aviation system. The legislation is supported by key aviation stakeholders, including the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE) and Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

“AAAE and airport executives thank Chairman Larsen and Representative Beyer for their leadership on coronavirus-related issues and for their efforts to enhance national aviation preparedness for communicable disease outbreaks,” said AAAE President and CEO Todd Hauptli. “Better coordination within the Federal government and more effective consultation with airports, airlines and other stakeholders on a consistent planning framework will help make our nation’s aviation system safer for passengers and workers alike.”

“The Port of Seattle deeply appreciates Representative Larsen’s leadership on ensuring a consistent nationwide approach to keeping passengers and employees healthy and safe,” said Port of Seattle Commissioner Sam Cho. “At Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA), we have implemented a wide range of new FlyHealthy@SEA initiatives, but the lack of consistent, enforceable national protocols throughout the entire air travel system has led to confusion and missed opportunities. The lessons from COVID-19 must be captured and incorporated into federal guidance, and we look forward to working with Congress and USDOT to complete this important work.”


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