Aviation Groups Praise House FAA Bill

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H.R.2881, the House of Representative's FAA reauthorization legislation, drew wide approval from aviation trade groups. The General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA), National Business Aviation Association (NBAA), National Air Transportation Association, EAA and AOPA praised the bill for its effort to modernize the national air transportation system while still retaining the current funding system of aviation fuel and ticket taxes. The bill will now move to the House Ways and Means Committee, with a recommendation to increase the current aviation gas tax from 19.3 cents per gallon to 24.1 cents per gallon and the Jet-A fuel tax rate from 21.8 cents per gallon to 30.7 cents per gallon, which pilot groups agree is a more fair tax increase than the 70-cent-per-gallon tax proposed by the Bush Administration. The National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) joined the chorus of approval, partly due to the absence of user fees but especially because of the provision that would reopen contract negotiations between the controllers union and the FAA. That latter provision drew sharp criticism from the DOT. In a statement, DOT Secretary Mary Peters rebuked House lawmakers for adding the amendment forcing the FAA and NATCA back to the table. On Thursday, she said that over the past two weeks the Administration has made a good faith effort to negotiate and settle with NATCA over what the union calls "imposed work rules" implemented last September. Peters said FAA negotiators offered "a substantial financial settlement," which the DOT chief said union leaders turned down. "The Administration opposes legislative efforts that would limit the [FAA's] ability to manage its workforce and that would threaten investment in critical aviation safety programs," she said, adding that for this reason the President would veto a bill with any such provision. For a more in-depth look at the bill, listen to AOPA's Andrew Cebula.