By Mary Grady, Contributing editor
Both the House and the Senate have signed off on an FAA funding bill that extends funding for the agency through March 31. The FAA has been operating under such extensions since 2007, when its last long-term authorization expired. Aviation advocacy groups that have been lobbying for reauthorization and fighting against user-fee proposals had hoped that the new administration, and a new administrator, would help to push through a longer-term plan before the end of this session. AOPA, for example, “maintains that a long-term funding package offers the best assurance of achieving air transportation system modernization swiftly and efficiently. … The need to pass a long-term authorization is evident.” Legislators also are frustrated. “The FAA has been operating under a string of short-term extensions for over two years,” said Sen. Jerry Costello, D-Ill., chair of the Senate aviation subcommittee. “Short-term extensions and uncertain funding levels can be disruptive to the aviation industry and communities because they do not allow them to plan for long-term growth. Frankly, every month that goes by without a long-term FAA authorization is a lost opportunity to improve aviation safety, security, and to create and maintain jobs around the country.”
The bill provides funding for the Airport Improvement Program and authorizes funding to be continued at current levels for most FAA operations. Current aviation taxes are also extended. The bill requires White House approval to take effect.