Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization: An Overview of Selected Provisions in Proposed Legislation

Publication Date: January 2009

Publisher: Library of Congress. Congressional Research Service


Research Area: Transportation



Funding authorization for aviation programs set forth in Vision 100 -- Century of Aviation Reauthorization Act (P.L. 108-176) will expire at the end of FY2007. Also, authorization of the existing tax and fee structure that provides revenue for the aviation trust fund is set to expire at the end of FY2007. Consequently, FAA reauthorization has been identified as a priority for the first session of the 110th Congress.

The FAA's proposal, entitled The Next Generation Air Transportation System Financing Reform Act of 2007 (H.R. 1356, introduced by request), recommends a new system for financing aviation system operations and capital improvements that levies various fee-for-service charges (user fees), on primarily commercial system users, and excise taxes (primarily fuel taxes) for general aviation system users. The FAA proposes several modifications to the airport improvement program, including increases in passenger facility charges (PFCs) that airports can impose on passengers, and initiatives intended to modify and simplify the apportionment of grants to airports. The FAA proposal also recommends several management and organizational reforms, including the proposed establishment of an air transportation system advisory board, and authority to create a independent commission to make recommendations regarding the realignment and consolidation of FAA facilities and services. The proposal also includes language intended to better integrate development of the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NGATS) into the FAA's ongoing planning and acquisition activities and would allow airport and private investment in certain aviation facilities and services. The FAA proposal seeks to control congestion at certain airports through market-based mechanisms, such as slot auctions and peak-period pricing.

With regard to addressing the environmental impacts of aviation, the FAA proposal includes language that seeks to: provide funding for research into technology or processes that would reduce noise, air emissions, and water quality impacts; provide grants for programs or projects intended to mitigate or minimize regulated environmental impacts; and provide grants or specify regulatory procedures to assist airports in complying with environmental requirements. The FAA proposal also recommends establishing a consortium for fostering innovation to develop cleaner, quieter, and more efficient next-generation aircraft. Further, the FAA proposal seeks to limit the scope of the Air Tour Management Program, designed to mitigate noise and other adverse impacts from air tours over national park units, to those parks where air tour impacts have been identified as a concern or could become a more substantial issue.

The proposal includes language that would significantly modify the existing Essential Air Service Program (EAS), that subsidizes air carrier service to small and isolated communities, primarily by setting more stringent criteria for eligibility and restricting further expansion of the program. This report will be updated as required.