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House, Senate Agree On FAA Reauthorization

In a 387-26 vote, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill on Wednesday that will authorize the Federal Aviation Administration for five years. The Senate passed the same bill earlier this week with an overwhelming margin of 88-4. 

The bill is expected to be approved by President Biden before Friday’s deadline. 

The bill authorizes more than $105 billion in funding for the FAA for fiscal years 2024 through 2028, and another $738 million to the National Transportation Safety Board for airport modernization, technology programs and safety.

In a joint statement, Airports Council International – North America (ACI-NA) President and CEO Kevin M. Burke and American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE) President and CEO Todd Hauptli thanked legislators for their work to ensure passage of the legislation. “The authorization of $4 billion annually through the Airport Improvement Program and other important reforms will help airports pursue and complete important infrastructure projects to improve the air travel experience for millions of passengers across the country,” the two said in a statement. “This bill will have a positive and lasting impact on U.S. airports for years to come.”

For airports, the bill authorizes a bump in Airport Improvement Program funding to $4 billion annually, the highest level ever.  Additionally, it replaces the current $100 million annual authorization for AIP supplemental funding with a new $200 million per year authorized program to fund airport resilience and runway safety projects.

The bill changes AIP funding formulas by increasing apportionment allocations for smaller airports and cargo airports, reducing the AIP/PFC turnback for large and medium hubs from 75 percent to 60 percent, and allowing airports to use 2018 or 2019 enplanement figures for AIP allocations in 2024. It also authorizes the FAA to approve AIP grants for projects that use innovative financing techniques and expands an existing alternative project delivery program to allow for the FAA to approve AIP funds for use in such projects. 

While the new bill doesn’t address an increase to the cap on Passenger Facilities Charges – a key, long-term lobbying effort by the airport industry – it does allow for a streamlined authorization process into the PFC program, permitting more airports to participate and allowing participating airports to forego an application submittal to the FAA.

Beyond funding issues, the compromise measure does not include a Senate provision that would have required TSA and/or airports to provide special security escorts for federal officials, their family, and their staff, according to ACI-NA.

The measure also revises current airport land-use policy by not requiring airports to seek FAA approval for projects on non-federal, non-aeronautical land and limiting FAA reviews of mixed-use projects only to those parcels with a federal and aeronautical interest.  Finally, the latest version would also authorize $350 million to help airports transition to fluorine-free firefighting foams, and establishes a new Runway Safety Council at FAA.