ANCHORAGE - Congress has directed the Federal Aviation Administration to write special safety rules for Alaska pilots who act as guides.
The measure was contained in the FAA reauthorization bill passed by Congress Wednesday. The bill also boosts spending for Alaska airports.
Two years ago, the FAA said hunting and fishing guides in Alaska who fly their clients to and from their destinations would have to comply with the same regulations that govern air taxi operators.
But guides complained the tougher regulations wouldn't improve safety and would be so expensive that many guides would be forced out of business.
The guide pilots challenged the decision and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled last June that the FAA did not follow proper procedures in imposing the tougher regulations.
Another provision in the bill would exempt small villages from rules requiring airports to be at least six miles from the closest landfill.
The measure also boosts funding for most Alaska airports, in some cases doubling current levels. The bill includes $9.5 million for Anchorage International Airport's cargo operations and $5.6 million for general funding for the Anchorage airport.
Alaska's congressional delegation, led by Rep. Don Young and Sen. Ted Stevens, fought to boost airport funding in Alaska. Young is the senior Republican on the House Transportation Committee and Stevens is the senior Republican on the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.
``With more pilots per capita than any other state and more reliance on air transportation, the increase in funds for safety and construction programs in the bill is critical for Alaska,'' Stevens said in a written statement.