Feb. 28, 2019
With the country’s longest-ever government shutdown in the rearview mirror, representatives from several aviation groups expressed guarded optimism for near-term government collaboration during a panel discussion at the National Association of State Aviation Officials (NASAO) Conference in Washington, DC.
Reasons for optimism centered around the stability provided by last year’s five-year FAA reauthorization bill, as well as bipartisan support for infrastructure and workforce objectives. An unpredictable political environment, exacerbated by the upcoming presidential election, remains the largest concern.
“The five-year authorization provides a good vehicle for FAA and the aviation community to work together to modernize the [aviation] system,” said Dick Doubrava, NBAA vice president, government affairs. “I think both sides are committed to getting things done as quickly and safely as possible.”
Doubrava also expressed encouragement that workforce concerns were being taken seriously on Capitol Hill, such as in last year’s Securing and Revitalizing Aviation (SARA) Act. He was less optimistic about the prospects for large-scale infrastructure legislation due to the current political climate.
“The political realities of an infrastructure bill will be challenging because of the presidential cycle,” he advised. “It comes down to advocacy for funding – we may have to break it down into smaller parts, but there’s opportunity.”
In addition to Doubrava, panelists included representatives from the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA), Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association and the Airport Consultants Council.
Amanda Joyner, GAMA director of government affairs, expressed relief that the FAA Registry office remained opened during the shutdown, but said that manufacturers – particularly small and medium-sized businesses – were hit hard by key FAA personnel in offices outside the registry being sidelined. The scope of the shutdown’s effects, she warned, still aren’t fully understood.
“We’re very concerned about trying to get back on track after losing 35 days of certifications,” said Joyner. “It’s hard to squeeze the toothpaste back in the tube.”
Agreeing with Joyner, Doubrava welcomed legislation introduced by House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chair Peter DeFazio (D-4-OR) and Aviation Subcommittee Chair Rick Larsen (D-2-WA) that would ensure continued FAA funding during a government shutdown. Read more about the proposed legislation.
“We hope going forward that our aviation system never has to deal with a shutdown again,” Doubrava said.