Two key US lawmakers overseeing federal transportation policy have introduced a bill that would keep the FAA fully funded during any future lapse in appropriations.

The Aviation Funding Stability Act, co-sponsored by Reps. Peter DeFazio (D-Oregon), chairman of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, and Rick Larsen (D-Washington), chairman of the Committee’s subcommittee on Aviation, would draw from the Airport and Airway Trust Fund (AATF) to protect FAA programs and personnel from future government shutdowns.

“The FAA is a critical operation for the entire United States of America, and since we have money in the bank, why should it have to shut down?” DeFazio said at a Feb. 8 meeting of the Aero Club of Washington DC.

“The projections over the next 10 years are that the existing taxes will bring in slightly more income than we need to fully fund the agency and get up to speed with the number of air traffic controllers, inspectors and other personnel we need to deploy NextGen and other new technologies, so there is no reason the FAA should ever be shut down again.”

The AATF, which generates revenue from the domestic passenger ticket tax, commercial fuel tax, general aviation gasoline tax and cargo tax, among other sources, has a more than $6 billion surplus, which is projected to reach $7.7 billion this year and soar to $47.7 billion by 2029, according to the US Congressional Budget Office (CBO).

If the bill is to become law, the FAA would automatically maintain the same funding levels from the previous fiscal year’s appropriations bill, or the most recent continuing resolution, depending on which type of legislation had previously been in effect.
The bill has strong support from a large cross-section of aviation stakeholders, including airlines, airports, pilots, air traffic controllers, manufacturers and safety specialists.

Airlines for America, the leading airline trade group, applauded the effort, saying in a statement that “the impacts of another government shutdown on the aviation industry are not tolerable; the pressures and strains are not sustainable.”

The National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) also came out in support of the bill, with the group’s president Paul Rinaldi saying, “The system requires a stable, predictable funding stream, and chairman DeFazio’s bill provides a better way and has our full support.”

Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) president Joe DePete said he is “grateful” for the lawmakers’ efforts to prevent another shutdown at the FAA, adding that “it is unconscionable that these essential aviation professionals were forced to work without pay during the recent shutdown, and we should never let that happen again.”

Ben Goldstein, Ben.Goldstein@aviationweek.com