No user fees, more money for WAAS approaches in House bill

June 22, 2005

No user fees, more money for WAAS approaches in House bill

The House Appropriations Committee Tuesday night approved an appropriations bill that includes more money for the FAA and specifically directs the agency to spend more on improving local airports and adding WAAS instrument approaches to GA airports that don't have an ILS.

"And once again, the committee put in AOPA-supported language that prohibits the administration from using any of the FAA's funds to develop or implement user fees," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "AOPA's legislative affairs staff worked hard to make sure the committee had all of the information it needed to make the right decisions for general aviation."

The committee provided $14.427 billion for the FAA, more than $1.7 billion more than President Bush requested. And the committee directed that some 22 percent of the funds should come from the general fund. (We'll explain why that's important in just a moment.)

Important for AOPA members is the $110 million - $10 million more than requested - for new GPS-WAAS approaches. A good chunk of that money is intended for non-air carrier airports, particularly GA airports that don't have an ILS. That's been an AOPA goal, and it will greatly increase the utility of many GA airports, making them more accessible to instrument-rated pilots during inclement weather.

Airports are a top priority for members, and this bill includes $3.6 billion in Airport Improvement Program (AIP) funds - again, more than the Bush administration requested. AIP grants help maintain and improve airports, and the acceptance of a grant obligates the airport to stay open for 20 years.

The bill also provides more money for Safeflight 21 and ADS-B, the program that will bring traffic and weather information into every equipped GA cockpit.

Now to those general funds. If you've been following along on the "FAA funding crisis" issue, you'll remember that AOPA contends there's only a crisis if the general fund contribution is reduced. The committee didn't.

"AOPA maintains that it is fair and reasonable to pay for some of FAA's operations from the general fund, because having a national air transportation system benefits the general public," said Andy Cebula, AOPA senior vice president of government and technical affairs. "We think that 25 percent is a fair contribution."

And if Congress keeps the contribution above 20 percent, there is little risk of running the aviation trust fund dry.

The FAA funding bill, which was included in the Transportation-Treasury-Housing Appropriations bill, must now be approved by the full House, then the Senate, before it is sent to the president for his signature.

"The House committee action was a great first step, but the legislation still has a ways to go. We will continue working to have these provisions approved by Congress and signed into law," said Cebula.

June 22, 2005