WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Obama’s budget calling for a reduction in airport funding would have a serious effect on small airports, Dr. Gerald Dillingham of the U.S. Government Accounting Office told a congressional hearing Wednesday, June 17.
Dillingham was one of two government witnesses appearing before the House aviation subcommittee, which held the hearing on airport financing and development.
Benito De Leon, FAA’s deputy administrator for airports, said airports of all sizes are the backbone of the economy and that many of the small airports are important to the system. He added it is necessary to focus on small airports.
Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) emphasized this, declaring small airports are economic drivers for their communities, as well as critical during emergencies.
Mark Baker, president of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association and the only representative for general aviation at the hearing, urged Congress to continuing funding for airports. He also stressed that general aviation pays its way through fuel taxes.
“America’s airports are the true backbone of aviation, and without a robust airport network, aviation cannot grow,” Baker said. “General aviation airports rely on Airport Improvement Program (AIP) funds to execute a wide range of maintenance, expansion, and improvement projects that address safety, capacity, and environmental concerns. The need for such projects is high.”
Within the next five years, 24 of the 31 busiest air carrier airports will have congestion “at least once a week as they now experience on Thanksgiving weekend,” Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) said, citing the need for greater capacity.
New runways are needed to handle increased traffic, but most of the discussions by witnesses and members of the committee centered on funding terminals, ramps, parking areas and other non-runway areas.
By the end of this year, the aviation trust fund will have a balance of $6 billion. This money should be going out now to aid in the necessary airport expenditures, Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) noted.
This was the first of what is expected to be several hearings by this committee to gather information for budget proposals.