The aviation community has had a tough time this fall getting Congress to focus on the issue of FAA reauthorization, but patience -- and time -- are running out. The FAA budget was due to expire this week, on Sept. 30, but has now been extended to Dec. 31. Aviation advocacy groups are pressuring the Senate to use that time to come up with a comprehensive reauthorization package, instead of simply continuing to grant extensions, as it has done seven times in the last two years. In a letter (PDF) sent to senators last week, 32 industry groups representing air carriers, GA, pilots, air traffic controllers and many others said the new legislation is "critically overdue." A comprehensive bill is needed to provide funding for airport and airway system improvements. "The strength of our aviation system and the ability to meet future demands is dependent upon the federal government's success in meeting its obligations to provide adequate infrastructure," the group's letter reads. "A critical step in meeting those obligations is for the Senate to advance a comprehensive, multi-year bill that will help provide the resources necessary to help our country meet the demands being placed on the aviation system."
The letter notes that aviation helps to sustain over 10 million jobs and contributes over $1 trillion in economic activity in the U.S. A new FAA reauthorization bill would have a stimulative economic impact on the aviation work force, creating or maintaining tens of thousands of U.S. jobs, the letter says. The groups signing the letter include the Air Line Pilots Association, AOPA, General Aviation Manufacturers Association, National Air Traffic Controllers Association, National Air Transportation Association, and National Business Aviation Association. Much of the delay has been blamed on the change in administration and a change in leadership at the FAA, but with Administrator Randy Babbitt now in place and elections over for the White House and Congress, pressure for definitive action to be taken is likely to increase.