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House, Senate Committees Introduce Reauthorization Legislation

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation have each introduced bipartisan FAA Reauthorization legislation, starting points for what the industry hopes will be a seamless effort to continue funding for the Federal Aviation Administration. The agency’s current funding expires Sept. 30.

Neither bill outwardly mentions an increased to the cap on Passenger Facilities Charges, a key mechanism for airport infrastructure funding. The airport industry has been trying for many years to convince Congress to increase the cap on PFCs from the current $4.50 per passenger enplanement, and officials at both the Airports Council International – North America and the American Association of Airport Executives have indicated they will again lobby heavily to secure an increase.

The Senate bill authorizes more than $107 billion in appropriations for the Federal Aviation Administration for fiscal years 2024 through 2028:

For airports specifically, the Senate bill would increase Airport Improvement Program (AIP) funding levels over the next five years from $3.35 billion to $4.0 billion to build modern airport infrastructure; double funding for Small Community Air Service Development (SCASD) grants to $20 million per year while providing more flexibility for grant recipients; and strengthen the Essential Air Service (EAS) program by providing additional tools to ensure small and rural communities remain connected to the national airspace system, among other measures. In total, the Senate bill allows for $20 billion for FAA airport improvement grants to support more than 3,300 airports nationwide.

The House bill authorizes “robust” funding for airport infrastructure, including prioritizing investments for small and general aviation airports, and streamlining project delivery, the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee said.

“For over a century, the United States has led the world in aviation safety and innovation, but our ‘gold standard’ status is being threatened by increasing global competition, rapid developments in technology, a shortage of aviation professionals, and FAA’s own inefficiency,” said Committee Chairman Sam Graves (R-MO). “Our bipartisan legislation will improve critical infrastructure for airports of all sizes, streamline the FAA bureaucracy, strengthen the nation’s general aviation sector, encourage the more rapid deployment of safe technological innovations, and address workforce challenges throughout the aviation system.”

Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, referenced challenges with the current air transportation system. “The bipartisan FAA Reauthorization Act will help get the air travel system soaring again by improving safety and service,” she said. “The bill provides funding for the latest safety technology on runways, and to hire more air traffic controllers, pilots, and mechanics.”