Congress restores airport funds

 - September 14, 2006, 9:18 AM

As many predicted, the House Appropriations Committee restored the nearly $1 billion that the Bush Administration stripped from the Airport Improvement Program (AIP) in its budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2007.

NBAA said the spending bill signals strong support for aviation system maintenance and improvement initiatives. It includes $8.366 billion for FAA operations; $3.110 billion for the FAA facilities and equipment program, which is $600 million more than the President’s request and $600 million higher than the FY2006 appropriation; and $3.7 billion for the AIP, which is $950 million more than the White House requested.

The bill also provides funds for air traffic modernization and contract towers and additional FAA aviation inspector and aircraft certification positions in FY2007.

Most of the cut in the AIP funding would have been at the expense of general aviation airports. “These airports play an important role in our transportation system,” said AOPA president Phil Boyer, “allowing the air traffic system to operate more efficiently and safely.”

The funding is also vital to keeping airports open. “Airport Improvement Program funds have helped us keep a number of GA airports open and operating without unjust restrictions.

“GA airports depend heavily on AIP funds for critical projects such as repairing runways and repaving ramps, installing lights, removing obstacles to instrument approaches and a host of other safety and capacity projects,” said Boyer.

The bill allocates $10 million for the wide area augmentation system (WAAS) to allow the FAA to create WAAS approaches for airports without ILS approaches.

The committee recommended $16 million more than President Bush requested to hire more safety inspectors and aircraft certification staff. It said that “the loss of certification staff has negatively affected the domestic aviation industry’s ability to bring new products to the marketplace.”