Transportation

Aviation groups push bill that would fund FAA during shutdown

A coalition of aviation trade associations and labor groups on Tuesday urged Congress to pass legislation that would allow the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to access funding in the event of a federal government shutdown.

In a letter to leaders of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, representatives of 40 groups voiced their "strong support" for the Aviation Funding Stability Act of 2019, which would enable the FAA to draw from the Airport and Airway Trust Fund (AATF) during a funding lapse.

The letter notes that, during the recent 35-day federal government shutdown, air traffic controllers and aviation professionals were either furloughed or worked without pay.

"Jobs and economic growth in the industry were threatened as manufacturers, airlines and other operators, and small businesses faced disruption. The effect on the nation's air transportation system and the workers charged with keeping the system safe was dramatic," the letter reads.

"We find this situation to be unacceptable and we want to work with Congress and the Administration to prevent this from ever happening again," the letter continues. "The legislation is designed to provide a limited, targeted way of ensuring stability for the aviation system and it does not change congressional direction or oversight in any way."

At the height of the government shutdown, union leaders expressed concern that flying had become less safe because employees were furloughed or working without pay.

According to the letter, the AATF currently has an uncommitted balance of more than $6 billion. 

The letter is addressed to Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), the chairman of the committee, and Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.), the ranking member. DeFazio introduced the Aviation Funding Stability Act last week. 

The letter is also addressed to Rep. Rick Larsen (D-Wash.), chairman of the Subcommittee on Aviation, and subcommittee ranking member Garret Graves (R-La.).

hearing in the subcommittee, scheduled for 10 a.m. on Wednesday, will detail the effects of the recent government shutdown on the FAA and the aviation industry. The hearing, titled "Putting U.S. Aviation at Risk: The Impact of the Shutdown," will feature testimony from union and trade association leaders.

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