After five years of trying to get a long-term FAA funding bill passed, President Obama’s signature on Tuesday was the last step required to create a new four-year authorization bill. The $63.6 billion bill, which runs until 2015, aims to provide consistent funding and support to help upgrade to NextGen. “This is a great day for our National Airspace System,” said Paul Rinaldi, president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association. “This four-year bill will provide the funding stability we need to develop and train our next generation of controllers along with the next generation of equipment and procedures.”
Besides providing the long-awaited funding for NextGen, the bill accelerates the integration of drones into the domestic airspace, and makes it harder for airline workers to unionize. General aviation groups were generally pleased with the bill, which left out user fees and requires no tax increase for avgas or jet fuel. The bill also makes it possible for the government to create an incentive program to help general aviation pilots equip for NextGen, authorizes $13.4 billion for airport improvement projects, and allows airports to grant access to adjacent property owners.