The compromise spending package signed into law by US President Trump allotted $17.5 billion for the FAA’s FY2019 budget, a roughly $550 million drop from FY2018 but $1.3 billion more than the administration’s request.
Passage of the bill on Feb. 15 averted the possibility of another shutdown during the remainder of the fiscal year. Of the $10.4 billion earmarked for the FAA’s operations budget, all but $580 million will come from the Airport & Airway Trust Fund.
The budget designates $7.8 billion for the Air Traffic Organization; $3 billion for upgrades to facilities and equipment; $1.3 billion for aviation safety; $191 million for research, engineering and development; $61.2 million for NextGen development and $56 million for unmanned aircraft integration, among other FAA activities.
The spending law includes language preventing the agency from withholding consideration and approval of new Contract Tower Program applications, after a group of 35 senators in December wrote to FAA acting administrator Dan Elwell voicing concern that the agency was not giving the program sufficient priority.
Another provision blocks the FAA from limiting the use of Organization Designation Authorizations (ODA) to carry out delegated functions like certificate issuance and safety inspections, unless the agency has a documented concern about the safety and compliance of the ODA holder.
House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Oregon) and Subcommittee on Aviation chairman Rick Larsen (D-Washington) have co-sponsored legislation that would draw on the Airport & Airway Trust Fund to fund the FAA during any future lapse in appropriations. That bill has received support from all corners of the aviation industry including airlines, airports, pilots and air traffic controllers.