US House approves FAA Reauthorization

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The FAA moved closer to securing multi-year funding as the US House of Representatives passed its version of a reauthorization bill today that includes a controversial provision on foreign repair station inspections.

Despite concerns about European retaliation and domestic job loss, the House bill retained language that requires FAA to conduct twice-yearly inspections of foreign repair stations. In addition, agency staff must conduct drug and alcohol testing for individuals performing safety-sensitive functions at those facilities.

Some Democrats argued the bill threatens to dissolve a tentative European Union (EU) and US safety bilateral, in which a key element is mutual recognition of standards achieved by the aviation authorities participating in those agreements.

Congressman Tom Petri questioned if the agency has enough staff to conduct reviews, and said if inspections are ultimately required, they could "ignite a fire with trade relations".

House approval comes as the US Congress has not passed a multi-year FAA reauthorization since 2007 and the agency's most recent funding extension expires on 30 September.

The bill reauthorizes the agency through fiscal 2012 with $70 billion in funding.

It allocates $13.4 billion for FAA facilities and equipment to accelerate the implementation of NextGen air traffic control modernization and $39.3 billion for FAA operations. The bill also sets aside $16.2 billion for the Airport Improvement Program and increases the maximum passenger facility charge to $7.00 from $4.50.

The US Senate is expected to introduce its FAA Reauthorization bill next month and the plan is to find time for a floor vote by August, a Senate aide tells ATI.