FAA Research Bill Moving Through

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While the bills to reauthorize funding for the FAA have grabbed a lot of attention recently because of the attempt by the Bush Administration to impose user fees on general aviation, there’s another FAA money bill making the rounds that may not be as controversial, but it will have some effects on GA. The Federal Aviation Research and Development Reauthorization Act of 2007 was introduced in the House on Thursday and earmarks $1.8 billion within the overall FAA budget to kick-start modernization efforts over the next four years. Rep. Mark Udall, D-Colo., chairman of the House Committee on Science and Technology’s Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics, said in a news release that the airspace system must be modernized. “It is simply incapable, as currently designed, of handling large increases in traffic,” he said. “The bill before us takes several important steps to address this issue.” Much of the bill addresses structure and accountability, giving more clout to the Joint Planning and Development Office, an interagency body that has the daunting task of modernizing the system. The bill also makes it a requirement that the various agencies involved commit senior staff to work in the JPDO, and it sets performance standards for the work they do. There are environmental initiatives as well, which trickle down to GA. Tucked in all those six-, seven- and even eight-figure budgets is a $750,000 annual commitment to try and figure out how to make existing piston engines run properly on unleaded gas.