To the surprise of some and the pleasure of many, the Senate passed a reauthorization bill for the FAA Monday evening, March 22. With the House having passed its reauthorization bill last year, the two can go directly to conference for reconciliation and give the FAA a stable base after 11 three-month temporary extensions. The bill reauthorizes the FAA for a two-year period.
Both the Senate and House bills were passed without user fees, but the Senate version raises the fuel tax from 22 to 38 cents per gallon to help fund modernization of the aviation system. The Senate bill passed by a vote of 93 to 0.
Leaders of the various general aviation groups were quick to applaud the Senate’s action. All expressed thanks to Sen. John “Jay” Rockefeller (D-W.Va)., chairman of the of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, for his efforts to finally take action.
Craig Fuller, president and CEO of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), said the final bill will give the FAA “the long-term support it needs to move forward with the crucial work of modernizing our air traffic control system, preserving our network of airports and maintaining the safest air transportation system in the world.”
Speaking for the National Air Transportation Association (NATA), James Coyne, president, expressed thanks to the Senate for approving a bill void of user fees and that provides a fair jet fuel tax increase.
Ed Bolen, president and CEO of the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA), welcomed passage of the bill “to fund the FAA and continue transformation to a Next Generation Air Traffic Control — NextGen — aviation system.” He added that NBAA and other general aviation organizations have been strong advocates for proposals to modernize the nation’s aviation system and passage of the reauthorization is a good step in that direction.
Pete Bunce, president and CEO of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA), echoed those comments, saying his association was pleased with passage of the bill which takes a number of critical steps needed for the acceleration of NextGen.
Rockefeller cited some of the major portions of the bill, which he says will help the U.S. to continue to have the safest air transportation system in the world. These include new training qualifications for airline pilots, and revising flight and duty times.
The Senate bill also includes authorization of $8.1 billion to support airport infrastructure through the Airport Improvement Program, as well as establishes clear deadlines for adoption of NextGen technology.
Charles Spence is GAN’s Washington, D.C., correspondent.