WASHINGTON — The clock is ticking for Congress to make sure funding for the aviation industry doesn’t run out at the end of the year.
The money is needed for everything from safety improvements to filling critical staff shortages.
Over the summer, the House passed the bipartisan Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Act, but it’s been at a standstill in the Senate.
Members of a House subcommittee on Thursday heard from the aviation industry about the urgent need to get the bill passed in full.
“We worked in a bipartisan manner to pass our FAA reauthorization,” said Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN). “Our colleagues in the other chamber have not made the same progress.”
“This is about innovation. It’s about safety,” said Rep. Garret Graves (R-LA). “I can’t emphasize enough about the importance of moving this bill forward.”
Much of the testimony focused on the need to address air traffic controller shortages.
“A new approach is desperately needed,” said Rich Santa, President of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA). “Air traffic control is already a highly stressful profession. Controllers that are required to work 200 hours per month amplifies that fatigue.”
“The workforce is so green,” said Pete Bunce, President and Chief Executive Officer of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association. “They have lost so much expertise right now. We’ve got to be able to train them, which this bill addresses.”
The bill also ensures funding for infrastructure projects.
That includes safety improvements to prevent runway near-misses, which are on the rise.
According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), there were 23 serious runway incursions in 2023. That is up from 16 in 2022 and 11 a decade ago.
“It will help airports upgrade runways, taxiways and lighting to mitigate runway incursions and enhance safety,” said Paul Bradbury with the American Association of Airport Executives.
The bill has been held up in the Senate because of disagreements over pilot training requirements.
2023 Cox Media Group