WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Thad Cochran voted Tuesday to give final congressional approval to legislation that gives extended reauthorization to federal aviation programs that will benefit air service and airports in Mississippi.
The Senate on Monday voted 75-20 to approve the FAA Modernization and Reform Act (HR.658), clearing the way for a three-year reauthorization and reform of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to become law.
The House of Representatives approved the FAA conference report last week.
The FAA authorization law expired in October 2007 and the agency has operated under a series of short-term extensions ever since.
“This legislation gives the Federal Aviation Administration much-needed authority to improve the efficiency and safety of air travel in the United States. Its enactment is long overdue, but I am optimistic that the changes incorporated into this bill will benefit Mississippi and the nation.”
Cochran supported the continuation of several FAA programs that benefit Mississippi, including funding authorizations for the Airport Improvement Program (AIP), the Small Community Air Service Development Program and the Essential Air Service (EAS) program.
The EAS program supports passenger air service at the Greenville, Hattiesburg/Laurel, Meridian and Tupelo airports.
“Communities in Mississippi rely on these programs that are designed to benefit small and rural regions. Essential Air Service helps maintain passenger air service outside urban hubs, which can be an asset in promoting economic development. In the same way, the Small Community Air Service and Airport Improvement Program grant programs are beneficial to creating more reliable, safe and efficient air service throughout our state,” Cochran said.
During Senate consideration of FAA reauthorization legislation in February 2011, Cochran opposed an effort to terminate the EAS program but supported reforms to the program.
The conference report limits EAS to locations that average 10 or more enplanements a day, with certain exemptions.
It also restricts EAS participation to currently-enrolled communities, and reduces authorized EAS spending from $143 million in FY2012 to $93 million in FY2015.
Scores of airports across Mississippi have received AIP grants for safety and infrastructure improvements. HR.658 authorized this program at $3.35 billion annually from FY2012 through FY2015.
The Small Community Air Service Development Program is reauthorized at $6 million annually.
This competitive grant program provides financial assistance to small communities to support enhanced air service.
Mississippi communities and airports have successfully applied for and received funding through this program.
Overall, the FAA Modernization and Reform Act has been written to facilitate more long-term aviation planning by the FAA.
It authorizes the FAA to implement the NextGen Air Transportation System that will transform air traffic control to a satellite-based system from the existing ground-based system.
The FAA has awarded $468,558 to Tishomingo County to acquire land for approaches and to improve the runway safety area.