Inside the Fence

On the road in Washington, D.C. for the ACI-NA/AAAE Legislative Issues conference ...

First, the bad news: The coming federal fiscal year beginning in October could, for aviation, once again start off with the continuing resolution game. In other words, the DOT appropriations bill may not be in effect by then, which of course then leads to Congress passing stop-gap resolutions to keep things running. Problem is, this puts FAA (and airports) in financial limbo. How does an agency disseminate funds to airports for long-term infrastructure improvements when it doesn’t know what it has to disseminate?

Among the good news is the fact that the House Appropriations Transportation Subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Joe Knollenberg (R-MI), is trying to restore the $600 million which the Bush Administration wants to cut from the Airport Improvement Program for 2006. The move would restore AIP funding levels to $3.6 billion. Much of the credit goes to Rep. Knollenberg, says Todd Hauptli, senior VP for the Airport Legislative Alliance, the joint lobbying group for the two airport groups.

Then there’s Rep. John Mica (R-FL), chair of the House Transporta-tion and Infrastructure Aviation Subcommittee, who is determined to hold TSA’s feet to the fire. He’s also focused on modernizing ATC and finding new ways to fund the system.

Mica says he proposed doubling the ticket tax for three years, with the additional revenue going directly to fund in-line screening systems immediately at U.S. airports. Of course, it was a non-starter.

Regarding TSA, Mica says, “In this game, folks, I’m going to win.” What he plans on winning is keeping TSA employment levels down and putting an emphasis on implementing technology solutions. Throwing more people at it, he says, isn’t the answer.

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Heard on the (credible) rumor mill: A number of airports are exploring ways to expand one of TSA’s pilot programs with the help of an industry trade association — not TSA. Perhaps more evidence that TSA has yet to fully embrace the input which airports can offer when it comes to implementing security programs.

Finally, for those closely watching the Supreme Court nominee process: An FAA insider relates that one of the justices on the U.S. Court of Appeals that ruled in favor of allowing the Naples (FL) Airport to implement a Stage 2 ban on all aircraft, via a Part 161 study, was none other than Justice John Roberts. It seems he was on the side of FAA on this one.

Thanks for reading.