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House Passes FAA Authorization Bill

Rules Committee eliminates provision to repeal Disney, pro sports TFRs

April 1, 2011 — The U.S. House of Representatives narrowly passed the FAA Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2011 today, setting up conference negotiations to resolve differences between the House and Senate versions of the legislation that would fund and direct FAA activities including airspace system modernization.

The 215-209 vote also preserved the EAA-supported general aviation fuel tax system to fund FAA programs, rather than creating a user fee system that would have added bureaucracy and burdens for GA pilots. The bill also has many provisions dealing with airlines and commercial pilot rules that don’t directly affect GA but could be sticking points within the conference committee. President Obama has threatened a veto if some of the labor-related provisions remain in the bill.

“We’re happy the House passed the FAA reauthorization bill with no user fees,” said Doug Macnair, EAA vice president of government affairs. “There are considerable differences between the two bills, however, and the House and Senate conferees will have to work hard to finalize a measure to send to the White House. We will continue to be vigilant as the conference committee does its work.”

The bill includes provisions for the release of vintage aircraft data that EAA has advocated for years, so FAA and legislators could provide relief for owners of older aircraft that need original engineering data to maintain and restore their aircraft. The authorization also includes money for NextGen air traffic technology, a key element in the agency’s modernization plans for the nation’s airspace and air traffic systems, but cuts the overall budget by 4 billion dollars from that requested by the White House.

Prior to the floor debate, the House Rules Committee removed a provision offered by Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.) that would have eliminated the exclusive TFRs over Disney theme parks in Florida and California as well as large sports stadiums. Graves had included the amendment because the specific TFR language gave special privileges to those facilities and control over sections of public-use airspace. Pro sports organizations and Disney maintain the measure was needed for security, even though no specific security threat has ever been offered to justify the exemption.

“We’re disappointed that Rep. Graves’ amendment did not have its day on the House floor, but we appreciate his effort and continued assurance that he will work to eliminate this bad policy,” Macnair said. “We appreciate all those who took the time to contact their legislators over the past week. From the outset we knew that removing this special exemption would be a long battle. EAA and other GA organizations will continue the effort to correct this bad precedent that is more about control of economics and advertising than enhancing security, which can easily be handled under current FAA, TSA and Secret Service rules.”

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