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Aviation Innovation, Reform, and Reauthorization Act Introduced

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) today introduced the Aviation Innovation, Reform, and Reauthorization (AIRR) Act. Among other things, the six-yearreauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) would establish an independent, not-for-profit corporation, outside of the federal government, to provide U.S. air traffic control (ATC) services.
The new entity would be governed by an 11-person board of directors, and would be funded by unspecified user fees imposed on commercial airlines and part-135 charter operators. Military aircraft, piston engine aircraft, and non-commercial operations of turbine engine aircraft would all be excluded from paying these fees. Though, notably absent from the bill, is a Ways and Means Committee draft tax title to rebalance aviation excise taxes to avoid an overall increase in tax burden with the new fees, while maintaining sufficient collections to fully fund the Airport Improvement Program (AIP). This will be a critically important detail, as NASAO has long been concerned about the potential implications this proposal would have on the future health of the Airport and Airways Trust Fund (AATF) and AIP. All in all, the ATC proposal causes great concern, and we should all be wary of such changes to a system that works well.
Based on our initial review, it’s clear that there are several positive elements included in the bill–including the NASAO initiated provision to expand the state block grant program, a year-to-year increase in the total AIP finding levels that reach over $3.8 Billion by FY22, the streamlining of the Passenger Facility Charge (PFC), protections for the Contract Tower Program, and 3rd-class medical reform. And, there are also several provisions that need to be more carefully examined, including the financing details for the newly privatized air traffic control organization, along with unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) reform to accurately determine the implications for the future of our aviation system. Below are key points and figures addressed in the bill:
AIP Funding Levels:
FY 2016: $3.35 B FY 2017: $3.42 B FY 2018: $3.49 B FY 2019: $3.57 B
FY 2020: $3.65 B FY 2021: $3.73 B FY 2022: $3.81 B
EAS Funding:
FY 2016: $175 M FY 2017: $178 M FY 2018: $181 M FY 2019: $185 M
FY 2020: $300 M FY 2021: $308 M FY 2022: $315 M
Small Community Air Service: $5 M/year through FY 2022
State Block Grant Program Cap: Raised from 10 to 20
Contract Tower Program Protections & Reform:
– If the ATC corporation proposes to close an FAA contract tower that results in an airspace change or reclassification, the legislation requires the corporation to conduct a safety risk management assessment; an assessment of the impact of the proposed closure on the operation of the national airspace system; an assessment of the impact of the proposed closure on local communities, including air service, and any other safety or operational information that the Secretary of Transportation determines to be necessary to understand the safety impact of the proposed closure. The legislation also requires the corporation to develop a process to receive input from the public; impacted air traffic services users, local communities, and the affected airport operator.
– FAA is prohibited from conducting a benefit/cost (b/c) analyses unless air traffic drops by 25% in a year or more than 60% over three years. Benefit/cost analyses will be conducted annually at cost-share airports.
– Removes the $2 million cap on AIP entitlement and state apportionment funds that an airport can use to construct and/or equip an FAA contract tower, and allows airports to use AIP entitlement and state apportionment funds for remote towers.
Passenger Facility Charge (PFC):
– Allows more airports to apply the maximum PFC ($4.50)
– Streamlines the Passenger Facility Charge application process to increase airport flexibility in financing projects and reduce both airport and federal administrative costs.
– Removes restrictions on the Passenger Facility Charge, allowing airports to more effectively finance projects that improve airport infrastructure.
3rd Class Medical Reform (does not include Senate bill amendments/changes):
– Permits pilots to operate aircraft weighing up to 6,000 pounds; with five passengers or less; at or below 14,000 feet; with a valid drivers license (in lieu of an FAA 3rd class medical certificate).
– Requires these pilots to complete an online medical education course every two years
Tower Marking
– Directs the FAA to establish standards for the marking of covered towers over 50 feet; and directs the FAA to establish a public database with tower specifications and locations.
Non-Primary Entitlement (NPE) for Unclassified Airports
– Unclassified airports would receive NPE for three years (FY16-19) at the FY2014 levels
– These specified airports would not be allowed to carryover or transfer these funds during this period
While NASAO is pleased to have many of our priorities included in the bill, we have been anticipating that the House bill would not include non-primary entitlement (NPE) reform given the focus on ATC reform; and other main provisions. As such, we’ve been focusing our efforts on the Senate for some time now, and are actively working with the Commerce Committee, Senate leadership, and industry allies in our continued effort to reform NPE.
We will follow-up with more information on timing and details of the bill. In the meantime, do not hesitate to contact us here at NASAO with any questions or thoughts.
Categories: News, Uncategorized
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