South Metro Airport Action Council
** S M A A C **

CONTACT: Jim Spensley, President

Local Watchdog Group:
FAA Budget Stalemate Threatens MSP

The South Metro Airport Action Council (SMAAC) today released a letter sent to the entire Minnesota Congressional delegation advising the utmost caution regarding the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization. The Washington Post stated recently that the FAA re-authorization "...became a legislative lint roller of non-aviation-related measures.” The reauthorization bill stalled when a cloture vote failed last month. A continuing resolution expires June 30.

Congressman Jim Oberstar told SMAAC “The House of Representatives soundly rejected the Administration’s proposed FAA reauthorization legislation, including its user fee proposal to fund the air traffic control system. H.R. 2881, the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2007, authorizes $68 billion for FAA for fiscal years 2008 through 2011. The bill includes a modest increase in the general aviation jet fuel and aviation gasoline tax. The Senate has developed its own bill in Committee, but had trouble passing it due to fights over extraneous provisions.”

Oberstar hopes the differences can be resolved soon, and that the House and Senate will be able to develop an appropriate bill to send to the President.

SMAAC notes that five years ago many FAA research and development programs were canceled or cut back, and little has been done since. Even system maintenance and software fixes have been slowed to a trickle for lack of funding. Therefore, a continuing resolution, allowing expenditures under the status quo, gains nothing for busy hubs like Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP).

SMAAC and others doubt the FAA’s grand solution to air traffic control, the Next Generation system (NextGen) is any better because its development and deployment will cost billions and take decades, even if several serious technical issues are resolved.

As a result of a specific Congressional action, the FAA announced on May 30 that an auction for a limited number of landing slots at Kennedy and Newark Liberty International airports will be conducted. Combined with the cap on the number of flights in and out of the New York metropolitan area during peak hours (also required by the special law), congestion there can be somewhat reduced. These airports already had fewer operations per hour than either O'Hare or MSP.

While we wait, we need rate reductions and airline competition at MSP, as in New York. Congress apparently must do what makes us safer and more economically competitive in Minnesota, as local officials and entrenched airlines certainly haven’t.

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