FAA Extension Wins Congressional Approval

Washington turns to completion of long-term bill.

Unable to finish a long-term FAA reauthorization bill in time, U.S. lawmakers agreed to a six-month extension of the agency’s authorization. The extension bill, the Disaster Tax Relief and Airport and Airway Extension Act of 2017 (H.R.3823), cleared both the House and Senate on September 28, just two days before FAA’s authorization was set to expire. Passage came after the bill faltered on the first vote in the House—Hurricane relief assistance was added in the House, but a controversial flood insurance provision was removed in the Senate before final passage.

The six-month time frame, which extends FAA authority through March 31, 2018, is designed to provide continuity for FAA airport grants and NextGen programs while a compromise is hashed out on a longer-term bill.

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The extension, said House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pennsylvania), provides “six months’ worth of certainty and stability to the FAA, the aviation community, and the flying public.” He also noted “progress is being made every day on [the long-term FAA reauthorization] bill to provide long-overdue reform of the FAA. With the progress we’ve made, I believe we will move this bipartisan bill through the House in the next few weeks.”

Rep. Pete DeFazio (R-Oregon), meanwhile, said he is glad that the FAA has the necessary continuity, but, “We should not be in this situation...[Extensions] are necessary only because Republicans have wasted years on their crusade to privatize our nation's air traffic control system and hand over billions of dollars in public assets to a private corporation run by the major airlines.”

General aviation leaders lauded the passage, but appealed to lawmakers to move forward on long-term legislation without the proposal to strip the air traffic control organization out of the FAA.

NBAA president and CEO ED Bolen called passage an “important step to provide an extension of FAA funding and operating authority, so that the agency can continue to have the resources needed for its critical safety, infrastructure, and other programs.”

GAMA president and CEO Pete Bunce agreed, but added, “GAMA urges Congress to now focus on passing bipartisan, consensus-driven FAA reauthorization legislation. They should reject air traffic control privatization proposals, including Title II of H.R. 2997, which are divisive, distracting, and fraught with risks."