The U.S. House of Representatives May 19 approved a $12.58 billion FAA budget for 2001, a 25-percent increase over this year's budget.
"This is dramatic evidence of how the AIR-21 legislation has 'unlocked' the aviation trust fund for the betterment of all aviation," said Phil Boyer, president of the 360,000-member Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association. "And it demonstrates once again that Congress can and will appropriate sufficient funds for the FAA without having to resort to new user fees."
The record-setting budget includes many programs advocated by AOPA that are important to general aviation.
As required by AIR-21, the House increased the FAA's Facilities and Equipment budget 28 percent, giving the FAA the resources to finally move forward with critical air traffic control modernization. Included are critical GA programs such as the OASIS flight service modernization program and funds for the loran navigation system.
"The FAA can no longer plead poverty," said Boyer. "They now have the necessary funds. Our task now is to ensure that the FAA spends that money wisely and manages these critical modernization projects in an efficient and productive way."
(Boyer has been nominated to serve on the FAA's Management Advisory Council to help the agency run in a more business-like manner.)
The budget bill includes significantly increased funding for aviation fuel research, as AOPA had requested. The effort would continue to seek a suitable replacement for leaded aviation gasoline. The FAA's overall research budget was increased some 18 percent.
The House approved a 64-percent increase for the Airport Improvement Program, as required by AIR-21, and appropriated more money specifically to aid general aviation airports.
The FAA Operations budget (which includes flight service stations and air traffic control) was increased 10.9 percent to $6.54 billion, with some $2.1 billion coming from the general fund.
This was done despite fears that congressional appropriators might contradict the intent of AIR-21 and create a budget crisis by ending the traditional contribution of the general taxpayer. These "April 15" tax dollars pay for military use of the ATC system and contribute to the FAA budget for the general public good.
"The House appropriated sufficient money for every important general aviation program in 2001," said Boyer. "In fact, 2001 may become the year of aviation."
The U.S. Senate still must approve the FAA's 2001 budget.
The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, based outside Washington, D.C., is the world's largest civil aviation organization. More than one half of the nation's pilots are AOPA members.
May 19, 2000