House Transportation Committee chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) set the table for the next round of FAA reauthorization and federal aviation programs when he told the International Aviation Club of Washington, D.C., last month that “we have to begin laying the groundwork now.” The current FAA reauthorization became law in 2012 and expires in September 2015.
“That bill–the FAA Modernization and Reform Act–made some important reforms and we’re trying to ensure the FAA is implementing them,” he said. “But we have more work to do to put U.S. aviation on a true path to the future.”
Shuster warned that the nation cannot afford to stay with the status quo, simply because that’s the way it has been done until now. He said the country should not settle for just another reauthorization of programs, or for making adjustments at the margins of the system. “On the Hill, we should take a holistic approach and engage various House committee that also deal with aviation: Ways and Means, Homeland Security, Judiciary and others,” he suggested.
The day after Shuster spoke to the international aviation representatives, the House aviation subcommittee held a hearing on the state of American aviation. Subcommittee chairman Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.) called the hearing “a good way to wind down” the subcommittee’s 2013 activities and begin to shift focus to 2014 and the next FAA reauthorization bill.
LoBiondo, whose district includes the William J. Hughes Technical Center in Atlantic City, noted that the existing federal aviation law was enacted in 2012 after five years and 23 short-term extensions. And Rep. Rick Larsen (D-Wash.), the ranking Democrat on the subcommittee, recalled that Congress began 2013 at odds over sequestration, “with our aviation system caught in the middle.”
In April, air traffic controller furloughs caused by sequestration led to a rash of flight delays, and Congress raided the airport capital improvement grant program to put controllers back to work. “Then again in October, the FAA was partially shut down for 16 days, and 12,000 FAA employees were furloughed,” Larsen said. “FAA employees wasted countless hours planning the 2013 furloughs, the sequester budget and the shutdown.”
Streamlined Processes Needed
NBAA president and CEO Ed Bolen testified at the hearing that NBAA believes it is imperative for the FAA to perform its mission effectively, while also reducing costs. This includes streamlining the certification process for light aircraft, moving toward further consolidation of agency departments and functions, as outlined by last year’s reauthorization act, and prioritizing development of NextGen air traffic control management technologies.
Bolen also urged lawmakers to maintain federal investment in the FAA through a robust general fund contribution to the agency operating budget; and to preserve the general aviation fuel-based revenue system and continue direct congressional oversight over the FAA funding system, providing a stable and consistent level of funding for the national aviation system. The day before, Shuster had reminded attendees at the aviation club meeting that the Obama Administration continues to propose an additional $100-per-flight tax on aircraft operators.
To ensure that the GA industry continues to grow, Pete Bunce, president and CEO of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, said the FAA must continue to improve its certification process and leverage its resources more efficiently. “As manufacturers, we need clear and consistent leadership in the international aviation marketplace, which means the FAA must actively defend the robustness and efficiency of its safety certification globally,” he told the legislators. He also called on the subcommittee to give the Transportation Department “a clearer role in advocating for the aviation community within the government and internationally.”