A House-Senate Conference Committee has reached agreement on a long-term FAA reauthorization bill that would provide funding and program direction for the agency through fiscal 2015. A final vote on the measure is expected soon.
The FAA has been operating under 23 short-term funding extensions since 2007. The long-term bill, if passed, would authorize $63.4 billion for the agency to advance NextGen, including implementation of ADS-B technology, and include provisions for adding photo and biometric data to pilot certificates and requiring annual ELT inspections.
What the bill does not include, significantly, are user fees or increases of aviation fuel taxes. Aviation groups hailed the bill, which comes after last summer’s partial FAA shutdown and a bitter fight in Congress over transportation union rules.
“The House and Senate agreement shows the support Congress has for funding the FAA and moving forward with ATC modernization and satellite-based navigation,” said AOPA President Craig Fuller. “This move is long overdue and couldn't come at a more critical juncture to improve the National Airspace System and keep it the model for countries worldwide.”
AOPA and NBAA praised the bill for authorizing $13.4 billion for the Airport Improvement Program and including language on “through-the-fence” operations, designed to ensure that general aviation airports won’t be in violation of federal grant assurances for entering into agreements with adjacent property owners who have access to the airport.
“Thanks to this action, after five years of debate, we can now clearly see the finish line, and final passage on a long-sought reauthorization bill is imminent,” said NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen. “We thank the leaders on both sides of the aisle in the House and Senate who have worked tirelessly to get us to this point. The business aviation community understands that a long-term measure is the best way to ensure that the agency has the guidance needed to pursue long-term initiatives, including implementation of a Next Generation Air Traffic System, and other priorities, so that our aviation system can meet the needs of the future.”