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$63 Billion Faa Bill Agreed Upon

By Author: Steve Robinson
Total Articles: 468

The availability of cheap fares, whether cheap airplane tickets or cheap vacation packages was not hindered when the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) long term operating authority expired in 2007.

However its ability to make major decisions on major acquisition programs that extend over many years, such as air traffic modernization was hindered by uncertainty over how much it could spend and a lack of direction from Congress.

Since 2007 there have been a series of 23 short term extensions of FAA’s operating authority. With the new $63 billion bill, the FAA should enjoy four years of stability.

The bill includes compromises on several controversial issues that split lawmakers along party lines and by region, including air service subsidies for rural communities, safety regulation of cargo shipments of lithium batteries, and rules governing the formation of airline and railroad unions.

Key portions of the new bill cover:

• Funding for the Next Generation air traffic modernization program at around $1 billion per year, about the same as the past two years. The FAA is moving its air traffic control system from one that is based on World War II era radar technology to one based on GPS technology.

• Slightly reducing (by $10 million to $190 million) the annual subsidy on air service to rural communities. Subsidies for service to communities that are within 175 miles of a hub airport and average under 10 passengers a day over the course of a year will lose service. If this criterion was applied today, about 12 communities would lose subsidized service. No new communities will be allowed to enter the program.

• Granting the FAA authority to impose emergency regulations on lithium battery shipments if the agency can demonstrate that the batteries are responsible for a fire in flight.

Airline passenger rights advocates were disappointed that the new FAA bill did not include a provision legislating a three hour limit on runway delays as well as other passenger protections.

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