Congress OKs Long-Term FAA Funding

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The Senate on Monday voted to pass a four-year FAA funding bill that just last week was agreed on by a joint committee and then passed in the House on Friday. The bill now goes to President Obama. General aviation advocacy groups were united in applauding the bill. AOPA President Craig Fuller said the $63 billion in funding provides a "vital step" toward modernizing our air traffic system and improving our airports. Pete Bunce, president of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, said, "The policies contained in this bill are critical to the health of general aviation manufacturing." For about five years, the FAA has operated on short-term funding appropriations from Congress while waiting for a full reauthorization bill to be hashed out in Congress.

There are no new GA user fees in the bill, according to AOPA. The bill endorses changes in FAA certification that will make it easier for new aviation products to reach the market, GAMA said. About $3 billion per year will be spent to implement the NextGen air traffic system. The bill sets a deadline of June 2015 for the FAA to start using NextGen arrival procedures at the nation's 35 busiest airports, The Associated Press reported. The bill also requires the FAA to provide access to the National Airspace System for remotely operated aerial vehicles by October 2015. The National Air Traffic Controllers Association was pleased with changes in labor rules that they say will benefit workers. But while GA groups were generally happy to finally have a bill, not everyone was pleased with the final result. Labor groups worry that a provision making it harder to unionize workers is an "attack on workplace rights," according to Politico. And Flyers Rights, a group lobbying for airline passengers, was disappointed that a three-hour limit on ramp delays was not included. President Obama is expected to sign the bill.