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FAA Avoids Authorisation Lapse

Tuesday’s (September 29) news that the US Congress averted disruption to the aviation industry by temporarily extending the FAA’s authorisation until March 31, 2016 brings with it a tangible sense of relief.

The “Airport and Airway Extension Act of 2015”, introduced by House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chairman Bill Shuster, was approved in an effort to prevent an interruption in the FAA’s funding and keep the regulator operational. Had it not been passed, then the FAA’s authority would have expired on Thursday (October 1).

Since the last reauthorisation was approved in February 2012, there have been 23 temporary extensions granted. In one of the more extreme scenarios in recent years, the FAA had a partial two-week shutdown in summer 2011 following a dispute between the House and the Senate over subsidised air service for rural communities.

All things considered, the industry has largely approved of the FAA’s latest extension. Terms of the approval means the regulator will get $4.8bn for operations, $1.6bn for airport improvement programmes and $1.3bn for navigational facilities and equipment instruction. Additionally, $78.4m will be set aside for research and engineering.

But with Shuster and fellow committee member Peter DeFazio both stating the importance of avoiding another shutdown of the regulator, attentions now turn to Congress using its newly bought window to negotiate a long-term FAA measure.

Shuster said now is the time to “do something that’s bold, do something that’s transformational, and do something that’ll be very, very positive for aviation."

Could this mean Congress moving ahead with proposals to take air traffic control responsibility from the government and place it under the watch of a newly formed non-profit organisation?

Whether the hopes of Shuster will be adhered to remains to be seen.

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