The House and Senate have passed a spending bill that preserves many key general aviation programs. The omnibus spending bill for the remainder of the 2014 fiscal year is expected to be signed by the president in the coming days.
In addition to providing $15.6 billion to fund the FAA, up slightly from the $15.2 billion the agency received in 2013, the spending package includes language prohibiting new user fees on aviation. The measure also guarantees minimum funding levels for a number of programs important to general aviation.
“With funding secure for the remainder of the fiscal year, the FAA and the aviation community can focus on moving forward with initiatives to reform aircraft certification policies, find viable alternatives to leaded avgas, improve infrastructure at GA airports, and take other steps to advance our national air transportation system," said Jim Coon, AOPA senior vice president for government and legislative affairs. "In the meantime, AOPA will continue to press ahead in our work with Congress and the FAA to expand the use of the driver’s license medical standard.”
Among the items included in the omnibus bill are $212 million for the FAA’s Aircraft Certification Service, along with requirements that the FAA move forward with reforms intended to reduce the cost and time needed to certify both new aircraft and modifications to the existing fleet. The agreement also guarantees a minimum of $140 million for the contract tower program and $6 million to continue funding the joint FAA-industry effort, known as the Piston Aviation Fuels Initiative, to evaluate alternatives to leaded avgas. The budget agreement also directs the FAA to continue efforts to establish a “UAS Center of Excellence” to provide recommendations and research designed to help safely integrate unmanned aircraft into the existing airspace system.
The omnibus bill keeps modernization efforts moving forward, with $282 million to implement ADS-B throughout the National Airspace System and $59.8 million to preserve the NextGen program.
Thousands of infrastructure improvement and repair programs at airports nationwide will be able to go forward thanks to $3.35 billion set aside for the Airport Improvement Program, up from $3.1 billion in 2013. Small airports in particular will benefit from a provision that allows them to continue contributing 5 percent of the total cost for unfinished phased projects that were under way before the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 doubled the cost share to 10 percent.