After nearly five years and 23 short-term continuing resolutions, Congress appears ready to vote and pass a four-year, $63 billion Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization package. The final vote is expected to occur prior to Feb. 17, when the most recent short-term funding extension expires.
Congressional leaders in both the House of Representatives and Senate reached a compromise on the deal Jan. 31. The 396-page bill includes funding for the Next Generation Air Transportation System, accelerated national deployment of NextGen technologies, $13.4 billion for the Airport Improvement Program and assures funding subsidies for rural airport with $190 million annually.
“All of us at this table made compromises,” Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, told USA Today. “The outcome is that we have a bill that will take steps to modernize our air traffic control system, make the air transportation system safer than ever, and make certain small communities have access to critical air service.”
In the past, Congressional bickering has prevented Congress from passing a long-term FAA funding bill since the last one expired in 2007. Last summer, the FAA was partially shut down for two weeks when short-term funding expired. At that time, more than 4,000 FAA employees were furloughed and dozens of construction projects across the country received “stop work orders” for critical airport modernization projects.
“Finally, after five years of Congressional inaction, the Aircraft Electronics Association is pleased with the progress made this week for a long-term reauthorization package,” said Paula Derks, AEA president. “Without it, the FAA’s ability to strategically commit to the infrastructure improvements necessary to fully implement NextGen is in jeopardy. Thanks to the efforts of the entire general aviation community, including many AEA members that voiced their concerns, it appears that final passage of a long-term reauthorization bill is coming to fruition. Until the final vote takes place, the AEA continues to urge its members to contact their representatives in Washington, D.C., to pass this legislation.”