House Panel OKs FAA Budget Boost with Safety-first Call

 - June 5, 2019, 10:45 AM

The House Appropriations Committee yesterday approved a $17.7 billion budget for the FAA in Fiscal Year 2020 that includes an emphasis on the need for a “safety first” approach and funding to staff its aviation safety workforce accordingly. Included in the larger Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies bill that passed the committee 29 to 21, the FAA budget proposal seeks $267 million more than enacted for FY2019 and $614 million more than the White House request.

The committee recommended $10.68 billion for the FAA’s operations account, the vast majority of which—$9.83 billion—would come from the Airport and Airway Trust Fund. Lawmakers dedicated $1.6 billion of the total operations account to aviation safety, saying they expect “the multiple, ongoing reviews of the certification process to result in the need for greater technical competency at the FAA and deep, substantive responses to the recommendations from these reviews.”

Lawmakers added they are providing resources accordingly and further said they support augmenting inspectors, technicians, engineers, and other personnel to help accident prevention. “Incorporating a ‘safety first’ approach into the FAA and its operations is essential and takes precedence over the commercial success of any technology, manufacturer, carrier, or airport,” the committee said in report language accompanying the bill.

In addition, the committee directs the FAA to focus on capabilities of additive manufacturing, provides specific funding for maintenance technician and aviation workforce development in general, seeks a national data standard for charting airspace around emergency heliports, endorses continued use of FAA field offices, and stresses the need for compliance with requirements designed to address community noise concerns, among other stipulations.

The committee proposes flat funding of $3 billion for the FAA’s facilities and equipment account, as well as the same funding year-over-year ($191 million) for research, engineering, and development. Likewise, the Airport Improvement Program would receive the same funding at $3.35 billion and include an additional $500 million dedicated to discretionary airport grant funding, as is the case in FY2019.

Also carrying over from the most recent appropriations bill are the continuation of the weight restriction at Teterboro Airport, reimbursements for airports affected by certain presidential temporary flight restrictions, and the continuation of privacy protections for aircraft operators from real-time flight-tracking programs.

The bill drew praise from the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) for funding key provisions included in the last year’s sweeping FAA reauthorization bill, including funding to address workforce shortages.

 “The U.S. aviation industry is facing a technician and pilot shortage that threatens to undermine the growth and competitiveness of one of the most important sectors of the nation’s economy,” said GAMA president and CEO Pete Bunce. “The initiatives funded in this bill will help ensure the industry will have the technical professionals and pilots needed to meet the growing demand for a well-trained aviation workforce.”

GAMA also praised the inclusion of nearly $241 million for the aircraft certification and $1.9 million for alternative fuels research.