Letter Supporting the reauthorization of the "Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Airway and Airports Trust Fund" (U.S. House of Representatives)
September 19, 2007
TO THE MEMBERS OF THE U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES:
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the world's largest business federation representing more than three million businesses and organizations of every size, sector, and region, strongly urges Congress to complete, in the very near term, the reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Airway and Airports Trust Fund.
The nation's aviation system, once a leader in the world, is failing to keep pace with modernization and starting to buckle under the strain of an increasing number of passengers and insufficient improvements. U.S. airline delays are at their highest level in at least 13 years. More than 909,000 flights were delayed through June this year, twice the level of 2002. And the problems are only getting worse. The FAA predicts the U.S. will see a 36 percent increase in fliers by 2015, which would total almost one billion passengers a year. In 2000, aviation delays cost $9 billion; in 2015, delays may amount to more than $30 billion. There is also another cost—the potential for significant loss of life in collisions that could occur in mid-air or on overcrowded runways.
The state of the air traffic control system is at the heart of the nation's aviation woes and its modernization must be a national priority. Congress must act to transform the aviation system to meet the expected massive increase in passengers over the next ten years by expediting air traffic modernization and providing adequate investment to increase the system's capacity. The United States must move forward with the Next Generation Air Transportation System initiative, utilizing state-of-the-art ground, air, and satellite-based technologies as soon as possible.
While there have been differences regarding the appropriate funding mechanisms, it is clear that a significant General Fund allocation is key. A General Fund allocation would meet several vital national interests including: national defense, emergency preparedness, postal delivery, response to medical emergencies, and full implementation of a national air transportation system. For example, with a General Fund allocation of 25 percent, the FAA would be in a position to work with industry to manage the increase in passengers and the systems developed to provide for them.
Finally, the Chamber does not support any provision of such legislation that would roll back a lawfully implemented contract and require binding arbitration to resolve contract disputes—as the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) is seeking to do. Such a provision would not serve the best interests of the system, its users, or the taxpayers. Overturning this contract could cause controller hiring to be significantly reduced or even terminated, and technician hiring to be slowed or eliminated. Undoing the current contract would be costly and divert more of the FAA's budget away from modernizing the nation's air traffic control system. While the Chamber strongly supports and appreciates the work the air traffic controllers undertake every day to make the nation's airways safe, such efforts would ultimately undermine the FAA's ability to modernize the air traffic control system.
For these reasons, the Chamber strongly urges you to reauthorize the FAA and the Airway and Airports Trust Fund as soon as possible to avoid disruption to essential aviation services andprograms, and to provide the suitable framework for aviation modernization.
R. Bruce Josten