In a late night vote, the House passed a major transportation funding bill that includes money to fund FAA operations in the coming year. At the same time, a proposed amendment to the bill that would have limited operations at Bob Hope Airport in Burbank, California, was defeated.
House Resolution 2577, the Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2016, passed the House June 9 in a 216 to 210 vote. Under the bill, the FAA would receive $15.9 billion, a $137 million increase compared to the current fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. The bill allocates $9.85 billion for the FAA’s Operations account, while Facilities and Equipment would receive $2.5 billion, and $156.8 million would be slated for the Research, Engineering, and Development account. The bill also would provide $3.35 billion for the Airport Improvement Program.
Over the past several years, Congress has provided funding for alternative fuels research for general aviation as the industry seeks a viable replacement for leaded avgas. The House bill includes $7 million for this effort next year, which is $1 million more than the current spending level and $1.1 million more than the president’s budget request.
Committee members said the increased funding is needed to move from research toward coordinating and facilitating the fleetwide evaluation, certification, and deployment of an unleaded fuel, and to help overcome any market issues that prevent it from moving forward. AOPA has been actively engaged in the process of seeking an unleaded avgas replacement through the Piston Aviation Fuels Initiative (PAFI).
During consideration of the bill on the House floor, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) offered an amendment that would impose a night curfew at Bob Hope Airport, which serves both airlines and GA. The amendment, which AOPA had strongly opposed, was ultimately defeated by a vote of 266 to 157.
AOPA and seven other GA and airline groups sent a joint letter to House Appropriation Committee leaders on June 5, urging them not to restrict operations at the busy Southern California airport. In the letter, the groups pointed out that proposed restrictions “would have a devastating impact on communities, travelers, and local businesses” as well as the national aviation system. The letter also noted that the amendment and others like it would circumvent the requirements of the Airport Noise and Capacity Act, setting a dangerous precedent. The Airport Noise and Capacity Act was enacted by Congress in 1990 in response to a growing number of locally imposed noise-based restrictions on aviation operations.
“We appreciate the strong no vote on this amendment from members of the House,” said Scott Verstandig, AOPA director of legislative affairs. “The aviation community is happy to work with airport neighbors to manage noise, but proposals that could lead to a patchwork of local requirements at airports around the country are not the best way to address noise concerns.”
In addition to AOPA, the letter was signed by representatives of Airlines for America, the Air Line Pilots Association, the Cargo Airline Association, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, the Helicopter Association International, the National Air Transportation Association, and the National Business Aviation Association.
A separate amendment affecting East Hampton Airport in New York was passed as part of the appropriations bill. That measure, which was introduced by Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.), prevents the FAA from using any of the money included in the spending bill “to institute an administrative or civil action against the sponsor of East Hampton.”
Earlier this year, the town of East Hampton, which is also the airport sponsor, passed a series of laws imposing restrictions, including nighttime curfews, at the airport. A group of associations, operators, and other airport backers field suit in an effort to force the FAA to override the town’s new rules. The legal action specifically challenges the FAA decision to waive its authority to preclude local limits on aircraft operations. AOPA continues to work with airport users and other groups to fight the restrictions.
Before the appropriations measure can become law, the Senate must also pass a spending bill and, if necessary, the two versions must be reconciled. It is unclear when the Senate might take action on its own appropriations legislation.