No User Fees In Senate Panel FAA Bill
August 18, 2009
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  • By: Benet Wilson

    The Senate Commerce Committee passed its version of the FAA reauthorization bill last week that includes a measure to accelerate NextGen for the air traffic control system (BA, July 20/25). The bill would fund FAA at $34.6 billion covering fiscal 2010 and 2011.

    The Senate bill, S.1451, does not contain user-fee language. Committee Chairman Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) had tried to push through a $25-per-flight air traffic control fee during the reauthorization debate in the previous Congress, but dropped the effort last spring after the user charge had stalled the bill.

    Rockefeller has made it clear, however, that he “still feels strongly” that more of the ATC cost should be spread to general aviation. He also stressed that he has opted for a two-year bill to provide the Obama administration time to develop its own reauthorization plan. The Obama administration has signaled it wants to introduce billions in new user fees to replace aviation excise taxes beginning in fiscal 2011.

    The financing portion of the bill will be handled by the Senate Finance Committee, which previously had opted for an increase in the jet fuel and aviation gasoline taxes. The House bill also eschews user fees, and instead calls for hikes in the jet fuel and avgas taxes.

    S.1451 includes several other provisions that could affect business aviation. It requires FAA to establish and implement a safety assessment system for all Part 145 repair stations and directs FAA to conduct twice annual inspections of foreign repair stations. But the measure includes language that says “in a manner consistent with U.S. obligations under international agreements.”

    The Senate measure prohibits the FAA administrator from taking actions designed to challenge or influence weight restrictions or prior permission rules at Teterboro Airport except in an emergency and calls for a phaseout of Stage 1 and 2 business jets. It sets milestones for completing work on satellite navigation procedures – known as RNP and RNAV – at the top 35 airports by 2014, and throughout the country by 2018.

    Bizav associations praised the Commerce Committee for passing the reauthorization bill. Both National Business Aviation Association President and CEO Ed Bolen and Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association President Craig Fuller welcomed stable funding for FAA to handle day-to-day operations and modernization efforts. “I applaud the U.S. Senate for drafting FAA reauthorization legislation that is void of user fees yet includes necessary funding to implement NextGen,” said National Air Transportation Association President James Coyne in a statement.

    Date: 2009-07-27