As part of the compromise agreement on border-wall funding, the House and Senate yesterday approved the remaining Fiscal Year 2019 appropriations bills, including for the Department of Transportation and the FAA. The approvals will avert another shutdown as the latest stopgap government funding measure was set to expire today. President Donald Trump has indicated plans to sign the bill.
Industry leaders mulled over the ramifications of the recent 35-day shutdown during a House aviation subcommittee hearing on Wednesday, detailing the stress on the workforce, delayed deliveries, and losses incurred from stoppages in certification activities and changes in operations, among other impacts. The House Transportation and Infrastructure leadership, backed by most of the industry, is hoping to garner support for a bill that would shield the FAA from the potential of future shutdowns.
In the funding bill, Congress set aside $17.5 billion for the FAA's FY2019 budget, a $549 million drop from FY2018 but $1.3 billion more than the administration request. The funding includes an additional $500 million bump for Airport Improvement Program grants. All but about $580 million of the FAA’s $10.4 billion operations budget will come from the Airport and Airways Trust Fund. The bill provides funding for unmanned research and integration, in addition to numerous other research projects such as on advanced materials, additive manufacturing, and environmental sustainability efforts.
As in past years, Congress included measures to protect aircraft operator privacy from real-time flight-tracking programs and to retain the weight limitation at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey. Further, Congress included protections of the contract tower program from the budget whims of the administration and provided money for expansion of remote tower technologies.
Other measures are designed to ensure fuller use of organization delegation authorization and to provide up to $3.5 million for reimbursement of non-gateway airports affected by temporary flight restrictions involving travel to the President’s “residences.” This measure was particularly aimed at the airports shuttered by the ongoing series of TFRs in New Jersey and Florida.