The U.S. Senate on Tuesday passed a six-month stop-gap spending bill to fund the FAA through March of next year.
The continuing resolution passed by unanimous consent, meaning there was no debate about the issue. It continues funding for the FAA at current levels until a new long-term funding bill can be crafted by the Congress.
That is no easy task. The last time the FAA needed a long-term funding bill, Congress drug the process out for years, passing a series of continuing resolutions before arriving at something on which everyone could agree. This process may not be much different, as House Transportation Committee Chair Bill Shuster (R-PA) hopes to include a wholesale restructuring of the Air Traffic Control System in the FAA authorization bill. Shuster and others want to privatize ATC, taking the function out of the FAA’s realm and placing it in the hand of a private entity as Europe, Canada, and others have done.
The industry was generally supportive of the stop-gap bill. In a statement, the Alliance for Aviation Across America (AAAA) said “We applaud Congress for passing legislation to continuing funding of the FAA through the end of March. This funding will ensure that there is no disruption of critical services to communities and airports across the country.”
Similarly, NBAA president and CEO Ed Bolen welcomed the news. “The business aviation community applauds the Senate for recognizing the importance of FAA operations,” Bolen said. “This extension ensures the FAA can continue its essential work uninterrupted.”
But there is likely a fight brewing over the ATC privatization issue. Along with its statement supporting the continuing resolution, AAAA said that the organization, along with the League of Rural Voters and the Air Care Alliance recently released results of a national telephone poll conducted by Global Strategy Group showing that the majority of voters oppose privatizing air traffic control function by a nearly two-to-one margin.