Today, the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Aviation held a hearing to discuss H.R. 1108, the proposed “Aviation Funding Stability Act of 2019” that would fund the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the event of a partial government shutdown like the one ended late last month. The hearing examined how the recent 35-day partial shutdown of the federal government impacted the FAA’s functions and operations, as well as the related U.S. aviation industry and workforce.
The bill, introduced by chairman of the House transportation and infrastructure committee Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and chairman of the House aviation subcommittee Rick Larsen (D-WA), is backed by various aviation industry stakeholders, including the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), Airports Council International-North America (ACI-NA), Cargo Airlines Association (CAA), General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA), International Air Transport Association (IATA), National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) and National Business Aviation Association (NBAA).
The new Aviation Funding Stability Act of 2019 is intended to protect FAA programs and personnel, and the U.S. aviation industry as a whole, from future shutdowns of the federal government by authorizing the FAA to continue to draw from its Airport and Airway Trust Fund (AATF) during a lapse in FAA appropriations with no General Fund contributions. If signed into law, the bill would also allow the entire agency to operate at current funding levels with no congressional action required.
Short-staffing of FAA controllers at several U.S. airports during the government shutdown began disrupting flight schedules and impacted the air cargo supply chain, as well as passenger and cargo security screening. Furthermore, furloughed FAA inspectors were unable to approve new aircraft, aviation products and infrastructure, that according to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Aviation, “hindered U.S. global competitiveness.” The subcommittee also noted that no new airport improvement program grants could be issued, hurting projects to modernize and maintain airports, in addition to detrimentally impacting personnel in air cargo and general aviation.
For more on how the partial shutdown affected STC approval for passenger-to-freighter conversion programs, read the coverage from our sister publication, Cargo Facts.
“Congress must do what it can to ensure the FAA, its employees and the U.S. aviation economy are protected from another government shutdown,” Larsen said. “The partial government shutdown unnecessarily hurt American families and jeopardized the safety of the largest, busiest and most complex airspace system in the world. To use a metaphor, the lights must stay on at runways across the United States.”
Although U.S. President Donald Trump announced a deal on Jan. 25 that reopened the U.S. government, the three-week period outlined in the agreement is coming to a close.