January 31, 2011
Jan 31, 2011 (Congressional Documents and Publications/ContentWorks via COMTEX) — Washington, D.C. – Senator Jay Rockefeller, Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, today introduced the FAA Air Transportation Modernization and Safety Improvement Act. The bill will speed up the modernization of West Virginia and America’s aviation system, make airports and air travel safer, improve rural community access to air service and help support thousands of jobs.
“West Virginia’s aviation system is an incredibly important part of our economy – providing jobs and connecting our businesses and tourism to the rest of the world. We must make sure that we continue to support our state aviation system by providing for our regional airports and making sure that we have the safest, most up-to-date equipment – and that’s exactly what this bill does,” said Rockefeller. “I’ve worked for years to help expand and develop West Virginia’s air transportation infrastructure – so that our state and every community can experience the economic benefits – and I will never stop that fight. With this bill, we are taking the necessary steps to make sure that West Virginia’s aviation system can help support a strong economic future.” The bill will be on the Senate floor next week.
The bill contains the following provisions which help West Virginia air service: * Maintains support for the Small Community Air Service Development Program (SCASDP), which was originally created by Senator Rockefeller in 2005 to increase air service and help offset the cost of higher ticket fares from small airports. The program has been authorized at $35 million annually through FY 2011.
* Substantially increases authorized funding for Essential Air Service (EAS) to $200 million annually, a $73 million increase.
* Proposes a number of improvements to the EAS program to allow communities greater flexibility in attracting desired air service, including: (1) new financial incentives into contracts with EAS carriers to encourage better service; (2) longer-term EAS contracts if in the public interest; (3) development of incentives for large airlines to code-share on service to small communities; and (4) requiring large airlines to code-share on EAS flights in up to 10 communities.
* Establishes an Office of Rural Aviation within the Department of Transportation (DOT) to focus on the development of longer-term EAS contracts and to review and compare air carrier applications for EAS service among different communities.
* Authorizes the use of AIP funds for converting an EAS airport into a General Aviation (GA) airport if the EAS community exits the program.
* Requires DOT to establish a Center of Excellence for a research program related to developing jet fuel from clean coal through grants or other measures, with a requirement to include educational and research institutions in the initiative.
* Extends a provision that raises the Federal share for certain small airport improvement projects to 95 percent.
* Provides no passenger facility charge increase on West Virginia flyers.
* Increases funding for contract towers that benefit small communities.