FAA Funding I: Is Change In The Air?

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To hear many in the FAA's leadership tell it, AVweb's Favorite Aviation Agency is facing a funding crisis: Costs are increasing while revenues are dropping. And, while that's nothing to surprise anyone who has looked at fuel prices lately, the FAA can and says it just may do something about it. Tomorrow's quasi-public meeting of aviation industry "stakeholders, business and government leaders" -- titled "Transforming Aviation: The Critical Need for Solutions" and sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C. -- is designed to foster an "open dialogue on the economic importance of America's aviation system and the crisis it currently faces." Crisis? What crisis? Well, if you believe some of the noises coming out of the FAA and, especially, the airlines and the Chamber, "excess capacity, growing taxes and user fees, and high fuel prices [are at the root of the U.S. aviation system's] reaching a breaking point in its ability to create future economic growth." A lot of factors are at work in the assumptions underlying this meeting and what is sure to be a growing level of media hype accompanying it. Among them are the aforementioned high fuel prices, declining revenues into the Airport and Airways Trust Fund, increasing costs for aviation security and the ongoing need to develop and improve the nation's aviation infrastructure. Perhaps foremost, however, are the economic straits in which many large, traditional airlines find themselves. Those carriers have long complained about the high costs of federal excise taxes on air transportation even while they have cut their fares to the bone in a losing effort to compete with the likes of Southwest and JetBlue. Now, it seems, someone is listening to their complaints.