Did you notice the FAA is shutdown?

With the debt crisis averted.. for now, the FAA’s funding status has regained prominence in the mainstream media. However, a series of press releases, news stories and the recently completed EAA AirVenture have me thinking.

A July 28 press release from Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) titled, “Facts About FAA Partial Shutdown” includes 17 “facts.” Following are two “facts” that stood out to me [scroll to bottom to see all 17].

FACT:  The Senate has chosen to complain about the legislative process and its supposed need for a “clean” extension, rather than taking up the House-passed extension which would immediately end the FAA shutdown and put people back to work.

FACT:  After 4.5 years and 20 previous extensions – 17 of which were passed by a Democrat-controlled Senate and House – Senate and House Democrats are now arguing that they don’t like the process, but it’s doubtful that complaining about the process is comforting to the families of those 4,000 furloughed FAA employees.

As a small business owner, I struggle with some of these “facts.” My reading of the above find that, upon reaching a funding resolution, 4,000 FAA employees will immediately return to work. It is apparently a foregone conclusion that all 4,000 are in fact needed. I wonder…

While some FAA services are useful and even needed, a great many simply are not, especially at the grassroots flying level. For example: Those of you flying from a non-towered grass strip to cruise serenely above terra-firma are not exactly in need of vast amounts of services. I could continue (and will in future posts) about the third class medical, aircraft certification, fuel taxes (which I call user fees), and more.

In the meantime, I want to know: How has the partial-shutdown of the FAA affected you? Take a moment and fill in the following non-scientific, slightly tongue-in-cheek poll:

Am I off-base or on-target? Comment below or directly to my email.

ORIGINAL PRESS RELEASE:

Facts About FAA Partial Shutdown

From: The Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
Date: 7/28/2011

Dear Colleague:

Let me share with you some of the facts concerning the current partial shutdown of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA):

FACT:  Six days after the FAA shutdown, Senate Democrat leaders continue to block a vote on a bipartisan-passed House FAA extension and have failed three times in the last week to pass their own extension.

FACT:  Senate leaders have chosen to protect political pork and outrageous subsidies of nearly $4,000 per ticket on the backs of 4,000 furloughed FAA employees.

FACT:  The House extension contains Senate-passed language reforming the Essential Air Service (EAS) Program, including cutting any ticket subsidies in excess of $1,000 per ticket, which affects only 3 airports.

FACT:  Airline service for Ely, Nevada is subsidized an incredible $3,720 per ticket.

FACT:  Every ticket subsidy eliminated by the House-passed extension is also eliminated by the Senate’s long-term FAA bill, which it approved in February (see sections 420 and 421 of Senate bill S. 223).

FACT:  Section 420 of the Senate’s long-term FAA bill eliminates subsidies at 10 airports that are 90 miles or closer to another large or medium hub airport.  The House-extension eliminates the same 10 subsidies.

FACT:  Section 421 of the Senate’s long-term FAA bill eliminates subsidies at additional airports, including the same 3 airports eliminated by the House-passed extension’s $1,000 subsidy cap.

FACT:  The House-passed extension reforms of EAS are even more limited than those contained in the Senate’s own long-term FAA bill.

FACT:  Senate leaders are now refusing to bring up this simple extension and vote on these modest taxpayer savings it already approved in February.

FACT:  Senate Democrats are also arguing that the House-passed extension is about a labor provision, but the fact is there is no labor provision in the extension.

FACT:  The Senate has chosen to complain about the legislative process and its supposed need for a “clean” extension, rather than taking up the House-passed extension which would immediately end the FAA shutdown and put people back to work.

FACT:  After 4 ½ years and 20 previous extensions – 17 of which were passed by a Democrat-controlled Senate and House – Senate and House Democrats are now arguing that they don’t like the process, but it’s doubtful that complaining about the process is comforting to the families of those 4,000 furloughed FAA employees.

FACT:  One of the previous FAA extensions, passed in 2010 under House and Senate Democrat leadership, included numerous policy provisions – in fact, an entire aviation safety bill.

FACT:  Chairman Mica and House leaders are determined to stop the endless series of short, stopgap FAA extensions since the expiration of the previous FAA law in 2007.  They are not willing to continue this irresponsible and short-sighted approach to aviation policy at the expense of completing negotiations on a much needed long-term FAA law.

FACT:  The FAA partial shutdown depletes the Airport and Airway Trust Fund by nearly $30 million per day.

FACT:  There is a simple way forward.  The Senate should take up and pass the House FAA extension and send it to the President for his signature.  Then hardworking people can get back to work and the House and the Senate can resume negotiations on the long-term FAA reauthorization bill.

FACT:  Chairman Mica has worked with Chairman Rockefeller and other Members of Congress to pass a responsible and long-overdue FAA reauthorization, and urges the successful and cooperative completion of that important responsibility.

If you have questions, please do not hesitate to contact Aviation Subcommittee staff at 226-3220.

Sincerely,

John. L. Mica
Chairman
Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure

Comments

  1. says

    “FACT: Senate Democrats are also arguing that the House-passed extension is about a labor provision, but the fact is there is no labor provision in the extension.”

    Congressman Mica is being a bit disingenuous with this “Fact”. While there is no “labor provision” that directly affects the FAA, there is a section in the bill that “… would reverse a National Mediation Board rule that allows a majority of those voting in aviation and rail union elections to decide the outcome. Instead, Tea Party extremists want to count workers who chose not to vote as automatic “no’s” against the union.” There are many references to this provision: http://thehill.com/blogs/transportation-report/aviation/152855-gop-rep-mica-repeal-of-union-rules-will-survive-in-faa-bill or http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/04/01/962360/-Union-busting-provision-in-FAA-bill-prevails-in-House Congressman Mica is carrying this water primarily for Delta Airlines which was upset with the NMB ruling.

  2. Gary Peterson says

    I do believe that the FAA like all federal agencies has a lot of fat that could be trimmed and I hope that will happen over the next few years. One way to trim that fat will be the elimination of 3rd class medicals I think this requirement will eventually be dropped once the statistics from the new sport pilot license holders show that they are not needed for GA VFR flying.

    As for kents comment, I believe that the concept of keeping the money paid as user fees at the point of payment is at first glance a good one but if you think about it the idea has significant problems.

    First of all I cannot imagine our federal or state governments being willing to give up potential funding sources and therefore I believe that user fees will end up being treated the same as sales taxes. All money taken in will need to be sent to a federal agency for dispersal which would be the same situation we have today. So therefore I would choose to keep the fuel taxes because that system is already in place and it works well enough.

    Secondly, although the present system is cumbersome there is a reason for the madness because it does lead to more money going to small airports than any locally acquired user fees could ever provide. We in GA have a lot to lose if fuel taxes go away because the large, busy airports will then get all of the user fee money paid by airlines and the small airports would get far less than they do today. Many small rural airports would not be able to survive which would hurt all of us. Most of us fly for the joy of flying and the loss of many smaller airports would greatly diminish that enjoyment.

  3. Kent Misegades says

    Well put, Ben. It’s about time we reform the entire funding process and take a look at how things are done in other countries. People knee-jerk over the thought of user fees, but they are not as onerous as often portrayed. In Germany where I often visit, you pay for what you use. If you are a day VFR recreational pilot flying from and to many of the privately-owned aero club airfields that abound there, you pay a trivial landing fee, if any at all. Land at a “controlled” public GA field, where tower personnel are not allowed to actually control flights but only advise, a small landing fee is assessed, comparable to the federal aviation tax we pay in the US when we fill our tanks. Look how we fund things now – all fuel taxes are collected locally, sent to D.C., processed by a DC bureaucrat, apportioned then sent to and processed by a state-level DOT bureaucrat, then eventually returned to local airports in the form of AIP funding, but only after the airport that collected the money in the first place fights for its return. Airport consultants, do-gooders and others get in the middle to fund pet projects at pet airports Far better would be to keep the money where it originated, cutting out all the layers of bureaucracy and crony capitalists. Best of course would be to privatize everything and let free markets drive our aviation infrastructure, not employed-for-life government bureaucrats.

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