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GA Scores Victories in FAA Reauthorization Bill

EAA, other GA groups' efforts show in final language

February 2, 2012 - As the first full FAA Reauthorization Bill in nearly five years heads toward a final floor vote in the House and Senate in the next few days, general aviation will see a number of benefits from the language approved by House and Senate conferees this week.

A major victory for general aviation is the exclusion of user fees and fuel tax increases in the legislation. While it is still possible that the Obama administration will introduce a user-fee proposal as part of its budget plan, the lack of them in the reauthorization measure shows that Congress still has little inclination to support such fees.

"This reauthorization bill gives the FAA and GA a much more solid footing to move forward," said Doug Macnair, EAA's vice president of government relations. "There are some major victories here after more than five years of effort. The work of EAA and the other GA organizations and the participation of the GA Caucuses in the House and Senate helped us to accomplish nearly all the common-sense proposals that would preserve individual freedom to fly."

Since 2007, FAA has been funded by 23 short-term extensions, the latest of which is scheduled to expire on February 17. A breakthrough in labor-relations language last month allowed the full bill to finally move forward.

Among the measures in the new FAA reauthorization plan that receive funding are:

  • NextGen air traffic modernization and implementation
  • Unleaded avgas research and safe deployment
  • $13.4 billion for airport improvement projects

While it is not specifically funded, the bill also authorizes the Department of Transportation to develop an incentive program to help GA equip for the NextGen transition.

The reauthorization bill also contains language strongly supported by EAA to benefit airports and vintage aircraft owners. The bill would enable:

  • Residential through-the-fence agreements between airport sponsors and adjacent landowners, where they make operational sense, without being in violation of FAA funding grant assurances.
  • The release of certain vintage aircraft type certificate and design data essential to safely maintain and operate vintage aircraft when they are no longer supported by a manufacturer.

Other provisions address a timeline for improved security for pilot certificates, a requirement for FAA to develop a plan to reduce the operational impact on airports within the Washington, D.C., Special Flight Restricted Zone, and clarify fuel cost reimbursement for volunteer pilots flying charitable medical flights.

"GA organizations have been working for five years to make many of these ideas a reality," Macnair said. "This outcome again proves that GA groups are indeed stronger together when combining our individual strengths in a manner that benefits all of us."

Final approval votes in both the House and Senate are expected next week, with the measure then moving to the White House for the president's signature.

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