FAA Must Have Long Term Funding
By Ray LaHood and Randy Babbitt
May 8, 2011 - The United States is facing a pivotal time
in aviation history. We are charting the transformation
of our air traffic control system from the ground-based
radar system of the past century to the satellite-based
system of tomorrow.
We want to make certain our aviation system remains the
safest in the world. But to accomplish our goals, the
Federal Aviation Administration needs a multiyear
Reauthorization would allow us to help airports move
forward with important safety improvements, which have
been put on hold because of uncertainty about long-term
funding. For example, we could help airports
finance special runway safety areas made of soft,
crushable concrete that can keep passengers safe if an
aircraft overshoots the runway.
For example, we could help airports finance special runway safety areas made of soft, crushable concrete that can keep passengers safe if an aircraft overshoots the runway.
This prevented what could have been a serious accident in West
Virginia last year. The material stopped the plane and all
passengers exited safely. It?s
difficult to manage large-scale, long-term programs when there?s
only enough money to pour 50 feet of concrete at a time. And it
costs a lot more that way ? meaning we get less bang for the
The FAA has not had a steady source of funding for 3? years,
relying instead on 18 short-term extensions. Some kept the
agency running only a few weeks. Debates over aspects of the
FAA?s reauthorization bill have led to a political impasse. Now
its authority to operate is set to expire at the end of May.
With a multiyear reauthorization, airports could make better plans to resurface runways and avoid crumbling pavement. They could better maintain proper signs and lighting, build safer taxiways and acquire equipment to prevent snow and ice buildup on runways.
Aviation is an economic engine for America. It adds $1.3
trillion to our economy. It accounts for more than 11.5 million
jobs and $396 billion in wages. These are good jobs that
Americans have the skills to achieve.
We are in the middle of an ambitious effort to transform the nation?s
aviation system to meet the needs of the future. We have to do the
long-term planning to accommodate this growth ? and build the
infrastructure to handle the Next Generation air traffic system.
It?s the switch from 1950s-era computer systems to Internet-based
networks. It?s like the upgrade from a black-and-white TV with rabbit
ears to an HDTV.
While the FAA has, unfortunately, made headlines recently because of a
few air traffic controllers who behaved unprofessionally, we have tens
of thousands of dedicated employees who work tirelessly to improve our
air traffic system.
Both the House and the Senate have passed FAA reauthorization bills. However, the funding levels in the House bill are well below what President Barack Obama proposed in his budget. Funding at these levels would degrade the safe and efficient movement of air traffic today and in the future. The safety improvements we need would be that much harder to make.
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