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Wed, Feb 14, 2007

GA In The Crosshairs: FAA Releases Its Plan For Funding

Plan Cuts Costs For Airline Passengers, Shifts Burden To Private Pilots And Biz-Av

ANN REALTIME REPORTING 02.14.07 1115 EST: It may be Valentine's Day, but the FAA is showing no love for general aviation.

Today, Administrator Marion Blakey (right) unveiled details of its funding plan the agency says will reduce aviation congestion, improve passenger airline travel, and cut down on noise for communities near major airports.

The FAA says the proposed legislation, called the Next Generation Air Transportation System Financing Reform Act of 2007, would replace the decades-old system of collecting ticket taxes with a cost-based funding program that relies on a combination of user-fees, taxes and a federal government contribution to support the development of a new, satellite-based, air traffic control system.

"This new proposal will make flying more convenient for millions of travelers," said Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters. "Anyone who has experienced the frustration and inconvenience of a delayed flight should take a very close look at what we’re proposing."

The Administrator states the so-called NextGen air traffic control system will take full advantage of the latest satellite-based technologies, allowing the FAA to handle more aircraft, maintain high levels of safety, reduce flight delays, and cut noise near airports. Blakey states the new system is essential if the agency is to keep pace with growing demand for passenger and cargo flights -- which will lead to between two-and-three times more air traffic by 2025, she added.

The bill aims to eliminate the domestic passenger ticket tax for airline travellers, and reduce the international arrival and departure tax by 50 percent -- which the agency says will reduce the overall burden to both the airlines and the traveling public.

It will generate revenues based on the costs that users impose on the air traffic system -- whether they are commercial, business or general aviation users.

"Our proposal will make it easier for airports, airlines and controllers to keep pace with the skyrocketing demand for air travel this nation is going to experience over the coming decades," said Blakey. "With over a billion passengers expected in the air by 2015, we have to act now or risk gridlock in our skies and on our taxiways."

The legislation also provides new borrowing authority that can be used by the FAA to support the construction of new runways, airport terminals and air traffic control facilities and equipment. It also calls for the establishment of a new advisory board that will give members of the aviation community a stronger say in how federal funds are invested in aviation, while maintaining strong congressional and public oversight in recognition of the importance of aviation to the nation.

The legislative proposal makes several changes designed to improve the ability of airports to meet capital needs and proposes to reform the Passenger Facility Charge Program to enable large and medium sized airports to raise local funds for vital construction projects. It also will restructure the Airport Improvement Program by better targeting Federal funds. And the bill funds research into new engine and airframe technology that will reduce aircraft noise and engine emissions.

Current FAA funding expires on September 30, 2007 -- an event the FAA states provide a 'unique opportunity' to create a system that better serves travelers.



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