Washington, D.C. – Standing up for Alaska’s unique aviation interests, today Congressman Don Young squared off before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on proposed legislation to reform the aviation system in the United States – H.R. 4441, the Aviation Innovation Reform and Reauthorization (AIRR) Act. The bill proposes major structural changes for the nation’s air-traffic control system, removing it from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and turning it into a non-profit corporation controlled by a private board.
Congressman Young Discussing H.R. 4441, the AIRR Act, Before the House T&I Committee (click here to watch).
“I am personally involved in this legislation, if any one state is affected by this legislation it’s Alaska,” Congressman Young stated. “You take all the land east of the Mississippi, from the tip of Maine to the tip of Florida, that’s Alaska… And in this bill, we eliminate – they say that we do not – but we eliminate Essential Air Service, in the sense that I have to take and fight each year to get appropriations to fund it. That’s wrong. I told the Chairman this. Essential Air Service is crucial to my state.”
Under H.R. 4441, mandatory funding for Essential Air Service (EAS) – a program serving more than 49 remote communities in Alaska – would be eliminated, leaving EAS funds entirely subject to the annual appropriations process. Considering the current fiscal climate, the elimination of mandatory EAS spending – generated from fees paid by airlines crossing U.S. airspace but never landing – could lead to a 40% reduction in EAS funding.
“The second part, they say we’re not exempting Part 135 from user fees or taxes,” Young argued. “That’s what serves my communities. I don’t have highways. I don’t have streets. I’ve got air.”
H.R. 4441 works to exempt certain General Aviation from future user fees, but fails to exempt Part 135 operators – air charters and taxis providing transportation services, critical goods and supplies, to nearly every remote town and village in Alaska.
“A lot of this bill is good, I’ll admit that,” Young said. “I’ve gone through it. The FAA has gotten too big… getting involved in some silly ass things that have nothing to do with safety. That has to be changed, but the idea that we’re going to penalize a state – and I’ve asked you to exempt Alaska – is wrong…Mr. Chairmen, I will say again if this bill is not fixed, I’m not going to support it. It better be fixed.”
A former Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and current member of the House Aviation Subcommittee, Congressman Young has consistently worked to build an aviation system in Alaska driven by innovation and safety. Along with Senator Ted Stevens and the Alaska Delegation, Young has worked to develop wind shear detection equipment, computer assisted approach technology, voluntary safety improvement systems like the Medallion Program, and the Capstone Project to use satellites when monitoring air traffic instead of radar.