McCain Applauds Passage of FAA Reauthorization Conference Report

November 24, 2003

Washington, DC – U.S. Senator John McCain, Chairman of the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, made the following statement regarding the conference report to the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization bill, H.R. 2115, which passed the Senate on November 21, 2003: “Mr. President, I am pleased that the Senate is about to vote on the Conference Report to H.R. 2115, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill. This legislation is critical to our nation’s air transportation system, providing necessary funding for aviation safety and security for fiscal years 2004 to2007. “Civil aviation generates more than $900 billion in GDP every year, and we all know that it has faced very difficult economic times. Since September 11, 2001, Congress has passed a number of bipartisan aviation bills to aid the industry and, more importantly, to assure that the air traveling public could continue to rely on this vital transportation mode. Among the many bills enacted, we established the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to oversee aviation security; we provided grants and loans to help the airline industry through their difficult economic times; and we extended terrorism insurance to the aviation industry. Without these important measures, the aviation industry would be in far worse condition. “The Conference Report pending before us is as important to the health of our aviation system as any of the other bills I just mentioned. This multi-year FAA authorization legislation is needed by airports, so that airport construction projects don’t come to a halt and cause layoffs in the construction sector. It is needed by aviation manufacturers and by the airline industry. Above all, it is needed by our air travelers, who rely on a safe and security air transportation system. Funding “The Conference Report on H.R. 2115 authorizes over $60 billion in aviation spending over the next four years to improve our Nation’s aviation system. It includes:
• $14.2 billion for security, safety and capacity projects for the Airport Improvement Program (AIP) – over 50 percent of this funding is likely to be spent on safety projects. In fiscal year 2004 alone, this funding will create approximately 162,000 direct and indirect jobs. However, th AIP funding ONLY becomes available if this Conference Report is signed into law – the passage of the transportation appropriations bill is NOT sufficient to make the funds available;
• $13.3 billion to modernize the air traffic control system;
• $31 billion to operate the FAA’s air traffic control system and to support the FAA’s safety programs;
• $1.6 billion for aviation research and development;
• $2 billion for airport security projects, and,
• $500 million for the Essential Air Service program. “The majority of this funding will come from the Aviation Trust Fund which is supported by taxes paid by the users of the system. “Although this Conference Report provides a great boost for the modernization of the aviation system and for increasing capacity and efficiency, there are also numerous provisions in the Conference Report that will improve aviation safety and security. Safety Provisions “In support of improving safety, the Conference Report:
• strengthens FAA enforcement against the users of fraudulent aircraft parts;
• increases penalties that the FAA may impose for safety violations – fines have not been adjusted since 1947, and as such, are sometimes simply treated as the cost of doing business by the entity being fined; and,
• requires the FAA to update and improve its airline safety oversight program. Security Provisions “In support of improved aviation security, the Conference Report:
• includes $500 million per year to finance security capital improvements at airports – including the installation of explosive detection systems. After September 11, almost $500 million per year in AIP funds were diverted to security projects from safety and capacity projects. Although this may have been justifiable immediately after September 11, in the long run, a continuation of such diversion could be detrimental to the aviation system;
• extends the Secretary of Transportation’s authority to provide War Risk insurance to airlines against terrorism;
• expands the armed pilot program to include cargo pilots;
• requires the TSA to improve the security at foreign repair stations that conduct work on U.S. aircraft;
• authorizes compensation to general aviation entities for losses resulting from security mandates; and
• provides for certification and better security training for flight attendants. Improving Airline Service “In order to improve air transportation service, especially to smaller and rural communities, the Conference Report contains a number of provisions. The report:
• reauthorizes the Essential Air Service (EAS) at current funding levels;
• establishes a number of EAS pilot programs to give communities flexibility in how they receive EAS service;
• makes permanent the Small Community Air Development program;
• establishes a National Commission on Small Community Air Service to make recommendations on how to improve air service to such communities; and,
• includes a Sense of Congress that airlines should provide the lowest possible fare for all active duty members of the armed forces. “Further, for large airports in western states and smaller airports in the east, it frees up more takeoff and landing slots at Reagan National Airport. Environmental Provisions “The Conference Report addresses numerous environmental issues. It:
• streamlines environmental review of projects to increase airport capacity and improve aviation safety and security;
• authorizes grants to airports to permit them to purchase or retrofit low emission vehicles at airports; and
• authorizes projects that improve air quality and give airports emission credits for undertaking such projects;. “I want to recognize all the hard work that Senator Lott, as Chairman of the Aviation Subcommittee, has put into the bill this year. Last winter, many in the aviation community predicted that Congress would not enact an aviation reauthorization bill this year. Senator Lott would not even consider such a scenario and kept us on a schedule where the Conference Report was actually completed before the August recess. This was only possible, as always, due to the work and cooperation on this bill from the ranking Democratic members of the Commerce Committee and its Aviation Subcommittee, Senators Hollings and Rockefeller. “I also wish to thank Senator Dorgan for his work in brokering the compromise that allowed us to move forward with this Conference Report today. “And I want to thank the Administration, especially Secretary Mineta and FAA Administrator Blakey, in working long and hard with us to get a final compromise on the issue of privatization. “I urge my colleagues to support final passage of the Conference Report and send it to the President.” ###