The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association is asking President George W. Bush to reconsider a decision to cut the Federal Aviation Administration's budget.
"Such an action would erode flight safety and delay much needed upgrades in our national aviation system," wrote AOPA President Phil Boyer in a February 2 letter to the President. "We can't imagine a more shortsighted decision."
AOPA has learned that the Office of Management and Budget is ignoring congressional mandates in preparing the FAA's budget for next year. According to congressional sources, OMB has cut over $300 million from the $6.1 billion that Congress directed, through the Aviation Investment and Reform Act (AIR-21), be spent on improving airports and modernizing the air traffic control system.
AIR-21, passed last year, "unlocked" the aviation trust fund and set specific funding levels for capital improvements to the aviation infrastructure. The landmark legislation also authorized a five-percent increase in funding for FAA operations. But OMB's budget proposal only allows for a three-percent increase.
"The bipartisan AIR-21 agreement was an important milestone in recognizing and acting upon the growing delays and congestion in our air traffic control system," Boyer told President Bush. "Ignoring the AIR-21 agreement would slow deployment of new air traffic control equipment, would delay vital airport infrastructure upgrades, and would place serious strains on FAA safety and training functions."
Boyer reminded the president that AIR-21 had created a predictable funding stream for the FAA and had united the aviation industry in backing key initiatives to speed building new runways and protecting existing airports. "OMB's proposal would create another divisive debate on aviation funding that would bring our collective efforts to a halt."
"In your remarks to AOPA members last October, you committed to placing the highest priority on finding solutions to the air traffic control problems the previous administration had not been able to solve," Boyer wrote to President Bush.
"Those solutions begin by providing the FAA with the resources it needs to modernize our airports and airways. We respectfully request your reconsideration of OMB's decision to underfund the FAA."
The 365,000-member Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association is the world's largest civil aviation organization. More than one half of the nation's pilots and three quarters of the aircraft owners are AOPA members.