By Darren Shannon in Washington DC

A leading US legislator last week called for an end to government funding of airport upgrades to accommodate the Airbus A380, at least until a domestic passenger airline purchases the aircraft.

The comments by Representative John Mica coincide with the release of a US Government Accountability Office (GAO) report forecasting that $927 million will be spent by 18 domestic airports to prepare for the arrival of the A380, which is expected to be used for revenue services into the USA from 2007.

“It is patently unfair for US taxpayers to effectively subsidise the operations of the A380 in light of the $6.5 billion in European government subsidies that its manufacturer, Airbus, received to develop this massive aircraft,” says Mica, who is chairman of the House of Representatives aviation subcommittee.

“It also unfair to ask US taxpayers to subsidise an aircraft that not one US commercial passenger airline has purchased,” he adds, noting that the A380 is “manufactured in France”.

In response to the GAO report, which was commissioned by Mica’s aviation subcommittee, the lawmaker says he will introduce legislation that will “prohibit the use of federal airport grants on any projects related to the 1.2 million lb [540t] 850-passenger A380 aircraft.

“Until a US airline chooses to acquire and operate the passenger version of the A380, foreign airlines that operate A380 passenger service to and from the United States should pay for any needed infrastructure improvements at the airports they serve,” he adds in a statement.

In its report, the GAO notes that the US Federal Aviation Administraton requires a 60m (200ft)-wide runway and a 31m-wide taxiway for the A380 because of its size.

The Congressional watchdog’s initial $927 million cost estimate for the 18 airports undergoing A380 upgrades could, it notes, rise or fall if FAA standards were changed, most notably on the runway width requirements.

About half the funds for these upgrades will be provided by the US Department of Transportation’s airport improvement programme, while a further 21% will be raised from passenger facility charges, says the GAO. The remainder is expected to come from bond issues and local government support.

Source: Flight International