OF Funding, ATC, and Veto Threats

As this year’s airport legislative conference attests, there’s a lot on the legislative table.

  • Employee Screening. H.R.1413 establishes a pilot program at several airports to physically screen all workers who have access to security and sterile areas.
    Todd Hauptli, AAAE’s senior executive vice president for legislative affairs, says there is pressure building on the Hill for more stringent screening at U.S. airports.
  • Environmental. Carl Burleson, director, Office of Environment and Energy at FAA, says that the Administration’s proposed NextGen upgrade of air traffic control will also have a significant impact on emissions and fuel burn. NextGen, he says, “provides environmental protection that allows for sustained aviation growth.” He says that the reduced separation minimums for aircraft that will be capable with NextGen could alone save up to 500,000 gallons for fuel for the airlines annually.

FAA is also involved in its Continuous Low Energy, Emissions, and Noise (CLEEN) Consortium with NASA and others that seeks to demonstrate aircraft and engine technologies that reduce noise and local air quality and greenhouse gas emissions at the source.

Burleson acknowledges that the European Union is driving much of the environmental discussion globally. “There is a split between the European Union and the rest of the world,” he comments. “We haven’t signed a treaty that says the EU is in charge.”

He adds that Congress may add some $5 million to the Airport Cooperative Research Program to focus on environmental research.

  • NextGen. Daniel Elwell, assistant administrator for Aviation Policy, Planning and Environment at FAA, says that transforming the U.S. air traffic control system via NextGen is “the single biggest motivating factor for the FAA proposal.

“NextGen is the singular goal of FAA,” he says.

Congress, meanwhile, is proposing a $25 per flight fee for instrument flights to pay for NextGen, a proposal that is getting resistance from general aviation groups.

  • Security. The so-called 9/11 Commission legislation (H.R. 1413), since passed, calls for 100 percent cargo screening for cargo on passenger airliners within three years. Chris Battle, vice president and director of Homeland Security practice for the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, calls the notion of achieving the goal of 100 percent screening in that timeframe “unfeasible.” The technology, he says, isn’t there yet.
    Perhaps the best news for airports from the 9/11 legislation, says AAAE’s Hauptli, is that it establishes a Letter of Intent (LOI) program by which the Transportation Security Administration will back the installation of explosives detection systems.

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