Senate Approves Federal Aviation Administration Bill After Years of Delay
Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet today voted to give final approval to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Bill. The vote comes after numerous delays in Congress, which included 23 temporary extensions and one partial shutdown of the FAA over the course of five years. The shutdown and uncertainty created by several short-term extensions affected hundreds of jobs and tens of millions of dollars of economic activity in Colorado.
“This long-overdue bill finally puts an end to needless partisan delays that had real and harmful effects for Colorado’s working families and our economy as a whole,” said Bennet. “Finally, Congress has come together on a bill that will clear the way for critical construction projects and allow for long-term construction plans, reduce delays for travelers, improve safety and access to air travel, and provide a huge economic boost for Colorado’s airports and their surrounding communities.”
The bill authorizes funding for the FAA for the next four years, including $3.35 billion per year for the Airport Improvement Program (AIP), which provides grants to airports in Colorado to make needed improvements. In FY 2011, Colorado received more than $26.7 million in AIP grants that supported 19 airport infrastructure projects across the state. In FY 2011, Colorado also received $5.6 million in state apportionment funding, more than $23 million in funds related to passenger volume and other formula funding for 50 separate airports, including general aviation airports.
The bill makes investments in the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen), a satellite-based GPS navigation system, which will reduce delays in Colorado and across the country. The bill also sets a concrete timeline for implementation of NextGen.
Other benefits of the bill for Colorado include:
- Ends a five-year delay and 23 temporary extensions to give Colorado airports a clearer picture to plan for the future and invest in airport infrastructure.
- Authorizes $190 million for the Essential Air Service program, which helps to maintains flights to Alamosa, Cortez, and Pueblo. At the same time, the bill reforms the program by phasing out airports with fewer than 10 passengers per day if they are located near a large- or medium-hub airport.
- Calls for an examination of alternative models for the fee airports charge each visitor that would allow some airports to collect the fees without increasing the ticket price.
- Provides airports with more flexibility when using entitlement funds for relocation or replacement of facilities.
- Stimulates private-sector job creation in the unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) by setting timelines for the FAA to take action on integrating UASs into the national airspace system.
- Improves service for passengers by requiring tarmac-delay planning by airlines and airports that specifies how passengers will be provided food, water, restroom facilities, comfortable air cabin temperatures, and access to medical treatment on a delayed aircraft.
- Encourages air carriers to provide active duty members of the Armed Services with reduced air fares that are comparable to the lowest airfare and limit the number of additional fees they would pay.
The bill passed by a vote of 75-20 and now goes to the president’s desk for his signature. Last year, Bennet advocated on numerous occasions for the passing the FAA reauthorization, including on the floor of the Senate.