April 26, 2013 - The U.S. House of Representatives on Friday passed a bill earlier approved by the Senate that would fund air traffic operations throughout the country for the rest of the FAA's fiscal year and end the furloughs that had delayed significant numbers of flights over the past week.
The measure passed 361-41 in the House and moved to the White House for President Obama's expected signature today. The bill permits the FAA to transfer $253 million to air traffic controller salaries and expenses. It pays for this by reducing Airport Improvement Program grants by the same amount. While the bill is neutral in terms of budget authority, the 10-year bill score will show a slight $4 million increase in outlays due to the fact that salaries spend out at a significantly faster rate than construction grant programs.
"We hope this measure gives the FAA the flexibility to make operational decisions based on priorities of safety rather than hard budget mandates," said Sean Elliott, EAA's vice president of advocacy and safety.
The bill also contains language permitting Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood to do additional transfers within FAA accounts. This may allow him to restore the FAA contract towers that were cut as part of the effort to reduce controller furloughs.
While the measure did not specifically detail any other air traffic operations, EAA continues to note that AirVenture air traffic operations will not be affected in any manner.
"We are confident that AirVenture will continue to have full air traffic operations and other essential safety support," Elliott said. "This measure solidifies the ability for FAA to provide its air traffic services on a daily basis as well as for unique air traffic environments such as those at AirVenture each year."