Does Obama recognize the value of aviation?

Charles Spence is GAN’s Washington, D.C., correspondent.

Some Washington aviation groups are expressing cautious optimism over the President Obama’s proposed $50 billion stimulus plan, hoping that including aviation in the proposal could mean an indication of the administration’s greater recognition of the value of flight. The proposal would provide funds for roads, rail, and runways.

The proposal calls for money to build or improve 150 miles of runway and support for the next generation navigation system (NextGen). AOPA officials said this indicates the administration recognizes the importance of providing stable funding for NextGen to keep it moving to implementation. Although the fact sheet released by the White House did not mention general aviation in its comments about runway improvement, AOPA promised to keep GA airports in the forefront if the Congress acts on the plan.

The American Association of Airport Executives said “greater funding for infrastructure is the right move and now is the right time.”

A similar comment was expressed by the Aerospace Industries Association: “NextGen is the future of a safer, cleaner, quieter aviation system and its implementation requires attention to both ground and airborne infrastructure.”

Support for the stimulus proposal was more for the recognition of aviation’s needs than expectation of immediate action. The proposal must be approved by Congress and there seems to be little chance this will happen, at least before well into the next Congress in 2011.

Sen. John Mica (R-Fla.), ranking member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said he “would never support another tax and spend proposal while billions of transportation and infrastructure funds lie idle.” Even many Democrats in both Houses are cool to the idea of adding billions more to the federal deficit.

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