Hiring of replacement air traffic controllers puts pressure on modernisation of the US airspace system within a Federal Aviation Administration budget request for fiscal year 2006 that stays essentially flat at $13.8 billion.

While funding for operations increases 4.5% to $8.05 billion to cover the hiring of 595 controllers, 258 field maintenance technicians and 97 safety inspectors, spending on facilities and equipment drops 3% to $2.45 billion. The programme that provides grants for airport improvements is cut almost 14%, to $3 billion.

Funding for the multi-agency Joint Planning and Development Office, charged with developing a plan for the next-generation air traffic system, gets a threefold increase in budget, to $18.1 million. But no funding is provided for key enabling technologies, including controller/pilot datalink communications and the local-area augmentation system, that were deferred from FY2005.

The Department of Homeland Security's budget request of $41.1 billion represents a 7% increase on FY2005, meanwhile. This includes $5.56 billion for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), an increase of 2.8%. The budget proposes increasing the passenger security fee by $3, to $.5.50 on a one-way airfare and $8 on a return ticket. This will increase fee collection from $2.65 billion in FY2005 to $4.1 billion, covering almost the full cost of aviation screening operations. Other DHS budget highlights include $20 million to buy 12 replacement helicopters for US Border Patrol; $19.9 million for equipment and aircraft modifications to provide armed helicopters at five US Coast Guard air stations; $31.7 million to fund the transfer of control of the USA's long-range radars from the FAA to the DHS and Department of Defense; and $110 million to begin installation of pre-production anti-missile systems on commercially operated cargo aircraft.

The FY2006 request also includes funding for more federal air marshals and to train airline flightdeck officers and crew members to carry firearms. The budget proposes consolidating the various DHS screening activities with formation of the Office of Screening Coordination and Operations. Among others, this would take over Secure Flight passenger prescreening, crew vetting and alien flight school checks.


Source: Flight International