Passage of the FAA Reauthorization bill remains unlikely and another agency shutdown is not out of the question, the US Senate’s transportation committee chair warned Monday.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) used an address at the Aero Club of Washington to make clear his anger and frustration that a long-term FAA funding bill is stalled in the House with little prospect of it being passed.

The aviation industry shares the blame for the stagnation, he said, because people in the community were not pressing their lawmakers hard enough and were probably under some illusion that a bill would eventually happen.

“This industry, if we are real about it, has very few friends on the Hill and they don’t understand how much the economy is tied to aviation. Because of this, the FAA bill is not going to just happen. It will have to be instructed, maneuvered, cajoled to happen,” Rockefeller said.

The Senator said he was angry and frustrated that negotiating compromise was no longer the way America’s lawmakers got the job done and that people refuse to give up on small issues or work towards the greater good rather than hold fast to individual theologies.

“This is a serious matter,” he said. “The repeated extensions and stopgaps don’t work and they are sapping the life out of this industry.

FAA has operated via a series of temporary extensions since its authorization officially expired in 2007 and the current extension, achieved at the eleventh hour in September, expires Jan. 31(ATW Daily News, Sept 19).The agency was forced into a partial shutdown in summer (ATW Daily News, Aug. 5).

Ultimately, Rockefeller warned, the combination of spending cuts rather than investment in a modernized air traffic control and aviation system would hurt safety and lead to a degraded, gridlocked system. “It’s pathetic, it’s shameful, it’s an embarrassment and it’s unsafe,” Rockefeller said.

"If the FAA Reauthorization bill does not pass soon, I am here to tell you that it could be some time before anything happens," he said. "Another shutdown is not out of the question.”

Photo: Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.)