Segment 2 Of 2 Previous Hearing Segment(1)
SPEAKERS CONTENTS INSERTS
Page 13 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 PRESERVATION AND PROMOTION OF GENERAL AVIATION AIRPORTS
Wednesday, June 9, 1999
House of Representatives, Subcommittee on Aviation, Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Washington, D.C.
The subcommittee met, pursuant to call, at 10:00 a.m., in room 2167, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. John J. Duncan, Jr. [chairman of the subcommittee] presiding.
Mr. DUNCAN. We will go ahead and call this meeting of the Aviation Subcommittee to order.
As most of you know, Chairman Shuster declared several months ago that 1999 would be the Year of Aviation. We certainly are attempting to get off to a fast start in that regard. After today we will have held 9 days of hearings, four markups and will have passed six bills. We look forward to keeping up this pace in the near future.
Next week perhaps the most important event of this Year of Aviation will occur and that, of course, is H.R. 1000, the Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century. AIR 21 comes to the floor for consideration and a vote. This bill, as I hope you all know, will take the Aviation Trust Fund off budget and will allow the money in that fund to be utilized fully for its intended purposes.
Airline passengers, shippers, and general aviation pilots are now paying about $10 billion per year into this fund with no assurance that the money could be spent under the current budget rules. H.R. 1000, by unlocking the trust fund, will allow those taxes to be spent on very much-needed, airport improvement projects.
This hearing focuses on the problems of general aviation airports. General aviation airports would benefit significantly from H.R. 1000. This bill increases the entitlement for all general aviation airports from 18.5 percent to 20 percent of AIP funds. For the first time, there would be a specific entitlement for each general aviation airport. Also, there is a significant increase in the small airport fund, of which general aviation airports receive 25 percent. Moreover, this bill gives new flexibility to small airports with respect to the Federal share, the use of State highway specifications for airfield pavement and construction, and undertaking work to extend the useful life of runways.
Page 14 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 In short, this bill probably does more for small airports than any bill in the history of Congress or this committee.
It is my impression that the Airport Improvement Program is one of the better managed programs within the Federal Government. You certainly do not hear about waste, fraud and abuse in that program. That is one reason why we are comfortable providing more money for airport improvements in H.R. 1000. And, in addition, as everyone knows, air passenger traffic and air cargo traffic are both growing at unprecedented rates, so the needs are certainly there.
However, it is important that the FAA follow up with airports and monitor how the grants are utilized by those airports. That was the subject of a recent GAO report that is also the subject of this hearing.
This GAO report was undertaken at the request of this subcommittee. We had heard complaints from Phil Boyer and AOPA that some general aviation airports were acquiring land from the Federal Government and using Federal grants at times to acquire land but then not always using it for airport purposes.
I hope that this is not widespread because it is certainly in violation of Federal law. That is why we asked the GAO to look into this, and we look forward to hearing their report today. The GAO has done a lot of good work for this committee, and we are very much appreciative of the thoroughness of their reports.
We are also pleased to have David Traynham here to represent the FAA and present their side of the story. David Traynham was a very well-respected staff member of this committee for many years, and this is his first formal appearance before us as a witness.
We are also honored to have representatives of general aviation airports from all around the country. We have officials here today from New York, Michigan, Oklahoma, New Jersey, Illinois, and Arkansas. I know how expensive it is to travel here to Washington, and we thank you for taking time out from your busy schedules to share with us your perspectives on general aviation airports in your area.
Page 15 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 We plan to structure this hearing a little differently from our usual method. Rather than divide the witnesses into two panels, we will allow each general aviation airport or State official to appear individually. Each will be allotted the usual 5 minutes to present their case; and if the sponsoring committee member wants to ask a question or make a statement, they will certainly be free to do so. However, many of these individual witnesses are from out of town and have flights to catch, so we do not want to hold them any longer than absolutely necessary. Therefore, we will not do our usual round of questions.
After the individual witnesses testify, we will have a panel consisting of the GAO, FAA, and general aviation interests. There we will follow the subcommittee's usual procedures about questions.
I thank all of the witnesses who have joined us for this hearing today, and I now recognize Mr. Lipinski for any statement he wishes to make.
Mr. LIPINSKI. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you very much for holding this hearing today.
With more than 13,000 airports, the United States has the most extensive aviation system in the world. General aviation airports play a very important role in our national airport system, providing access to every part of America. Therefore, it is distressing to learn that, according to the GAO, the FAA has not adequately monitored the Federal Government's investment in general aviation airports.
AIR 21, as reported out of this committee, will significantly increase Federal investment in our Nation's airports, including general aviation airports. In fact, AIR 21 creates a new entitlement for general aviation airports so that they can better address their infrastructure needs. However, we should not increase Federal funding for general aviation airports if the Federal investment in the airport is not protected from mismanagement, fraud, waste and abuse.
Page 16 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Therefore, I look forward to hearing from our witnesses today about how the FAA can better monitor Federal investment of general aviation airports. I also look forward to hearing from our witnesses about the infrastructure needs of general aviation airports and how the increased funding in AIR 21 will help these airports and strengthen our national aviation system.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I yield back the balance of my time.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you very much, Mr. Lipinski.
Do any other members wish to make opening statements at this time?
All right. We will go ahead and proceed with the witnesses.
The first witness is Mr. Charles E. Priester, who is President of Priester Aviation. He is here in his role as Chairman of a very fine organization, the National Air Transportation Association.
Mr. Priester, we are certainly pleased to have you here with us. You may begin your testimony.
TESTIMONY OF CHARLES E. PRIESTER, PRESIDENT, PRIESTER AVIATION, AND CHAIRMAN, NATIONAL AIR TRANSPORTATION ASSOCIATION (NATA)
Mr. PRIESTER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. It is a real delight and an opportunity to join you this morning and talk to you about something that is near and dear to my heart and near and dear to all of our membership and all of the users of the system. As a matter of fact, on September 19 of 1978, my father spoke probably in this same chair and probably on the same subject, airports.
Page 17 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 I represent in my Washington job the national aviation trades association. We are the group of people, so to speak, where the tire meets the pavement. We provide the service for all of the users of the system. We fuel the airplanes. We fix them when they are broke. We provide medical transportation for emergency systems, for people needing help. In many instances, we plow the snow and cut the grass at the airports. We are the service people. We are the people that make things happen.
Priester Aviation Company, of which I am President, has been in business since 1945. We have provided all of these services continually at Palwaukee Airport in Chicago from that time until the present.
I want to first commend Chairman Duncan and the members of the subcommittee for their in-depth understanding of the air transportation system and for their efforts to improve the infrastructure that we need today.
Now, as I said, members of our association are the service providers. We are frequently referred to as users of the system. But in a very real sense, we are simply providing service among the system for the real users. The users of the system are the American citizens, the American public. We simply provide and facilitate their movement about the system and the aircraft with which they move back and forth.
So what I am really going to report to you today is a report on what the users say that they need of the system. They ask us through our service efforts to provide the service incentives and the service facilities that are required and they are telling us what the system needs.
The good news, I think, is that our users understand that the air transportation system provides access to the communities throughout the country; and they understand that the communities with this aviation access, with access to the air transportation system, have a tremendous economic opportunity. That opportunity has been spelled out in numerous studies in the 52 States that we have, spelling out the benefits of access to the air transportation system to the members of the community.
Page 18 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 More importantly, they understand that this access provides a quality of life for the citizens of the community. It means affordable housing. It means market activity. It means schools. It means culture. It means art. It also means a mobility of our citizens to move from one community to another as the job market and their requirements change.
But let's not forget that the access to the air transportation system starts with the airports. Nothing happens in our air transportation system that does not begin and end in an airport. It is not really, as we think about it, unlike our Internet system that is such a hot topic today that is having so much publicity. No one can get to the Internet system without a terminal. The terminal to the Internet is not much different, if you will, than the airports are to the air transportation system.
To go a little bit further, and I don't mean to stretch, our Internet system as good as it is and as beneficial to the American public. And the American citizens, quite frankly, would be worth nothing if through the information that is gained from the system we could not move people and parcels around the world to meet our needs. Our users also understand that our system needs to change to keep pace with technology.
In the service end of the industry, we know that there are economic opportunities. Customers have talked to us in the 1970's and 1980's looking for air transportation for their people to the different corners of country and now want to go to the different corners of the world. In the service end of the business, our technology has brought about tremendous changes and capability to answer those needs of the users. We know that as population increases we are going to have more need for these services just because the demographics are going to change.
We know that the new technology in aircraft that we have is going to provide the ability to answer the needs of our users, but that ability must be implemented through an expansion, through renovation of the air transportation system.
Page 19 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 So when our users come to us, the users of the air transportation system and ask us for serviceand let's really understand that we are the people they come to for service. If someone wants to move a box to a particular location, they do not the call the airport manager, they call us. If they have a particular medical need, they call us. So we are the pulse of what the users want.
The users have told us that they have increasing demands. They need to take and move to different corners of the world more so than they have in the past.
Now, I can tie this in a little bit to Palwaukee. Palwaukee would change. The airport originally was founded in 1926 as 40 acres. It has transformed as part of the facility in the national airport systems plan to an airport today of under public ownership that has 411 acres. We have answered the needs of the users in terms of facilities. With private capital we have now 10 acres of hangar under roof; and we have put in over six miles of runway. So from the service end at Palwaukee, we have addressed the needs, we have listened to the needs of the users.
Yesterday morning before I left for Washington, I met with a user that is bringing a company to northeastern Illinois, which at the completion of the movement will employ over 6,000 people in northeastern Illinois. He came to Palwaukee and he came to our facility simply because of the need for access to the air transportation system.
Now, Palwaukee is no different than any other airport in our system. The needs are the same, the customer uses, the requirements are very much the same throughout the country. The level is different, the requirements are different, but the objective is the same. The bar will change, the requirements will change for each of those locations as the needs of the customers change.
Now, I don't want to be presumptuous, but as a matter of fact we believe, members of our organization, that we are really partners in serving the users of the air transportation system. We provide the services and the free enterprise system that has made America outstanding throughout the world. We do that with private capital, and we do that in a competitive nature. We cannot provide the airports and the infrastructure to provide the system and the access to the system. As partners, that must come at a national level so that we meet those demands.
Page 20 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Our users are telling us that they need more airports, expanded airports, the ability to go to communities with new equipment and use that equipment to compete throughout the world in the economic markets. That is what we are here today to talk about.
We think two things really need to happen. First of all, we must do our part as a service industry to fulfill the needs of our customers. But you must and we must, as a Nation, do our part to improve the infrastructure of the airports, provide additional airports, provide improvements at airports so that we can answer the use of the customers.
At the same time, we have another raising problem that we must address. There are certain groups around airports, too many to really be very happy with, that are attempting to curtail the use of airports with curfews, weight limitations and so forth. This is coming primarily from a small group of unknowledgeable people and, very candidly, who are selfishly looking to their own sources, if you will. It is alarming to us to find out that, of the 3,300 airports that are primarily geared to serve general aviation, there are 655 active airport groups that are attempting to stifle the system.
So I come to you today and say two things that we need to do. We need to expand our airports and improve those airports to meet the needs of the users. And we must together come up with a national program to reawaken, if you will, the American public to the advantages of the air transportation system, the finest in the world. In order to do that, we must have proper funding, and the funds used for aviation and the funds that are contributed by aviation should be used for aviation purposes. We must keep faith with the users, and we must provide the services that they tell us they are asking for.
We strongly support AIR 21 in taking the air transportation fund off budget. Our membership will be in Washington today and tomorrow making over 70 visits to different legislators to make our points known.
There is a real urgency to the problems. We can make the modifications to the Internet system by running down to the local store, plugging into a new terminal, and within 2 or 3 hours we are back in shape. With the airport system, it could take as much as 10 years to make the changes that are needed. I urge you that there is an urgency. Time is of the essence, and we must move ahead to meet the needs of our users.
Page 21 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Thank you for your time.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you very much, Mr. Priester, for a very fine statement.
Our next witness is Mr. Steve Jones, who is Chairman of the West Memphis, Arkansas, Municipal Airport Commission. And while Mr. Jones is moving to the table, I will ask his sponsoring member, Mr. Berry, if he wishes to introduce Mr. Jones or make any statement concerning Mr. Jones at this time.
Mr. BERRY. Mr. Chairman, I thank you and Ranking Member Lipinski for holding these hearings and for your leadership in the AIR 21 effort; and I also want to thank Steve Jones, the Chairman of the West Memphis Arkansas Airport Commission, who is taking his time to be here today.
I think Mr. Jones's testimony and views on the subject will be of interest not only because of his term of service on the West Memphis Airport Commission but also because he is a pilot. He has landedtaken off and landed on the runways in our region and received his flight information from the weather systems that these airports have. As you will hear in his testimony, he also knows how much improvements at these airports are needed.
Mr. Jones and I come from a very rural district. We have 32 general aviation airports in our district and no primary or regional airports. I assure you, though, that these towns rely just as much on these airports as the larger cities do; and it is just as important for our economic development. For this reason, I support the general aviation airports whenever possible and certainly support the provisions to assist general aviation in AIR 21.
Again, I thank Mr. Jones and the Chairman and Ranking Member for their support of this effort and appreciate everything that you all have done today.
Welcome, Mr. Jones.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you, very much.
Page 22 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Mr. DUNCAN. Mr. Jones, you may begin your testimony.
TESTIMONY OF STEVE JONES, CHAIRMAN, WEST MEMPHIS MUNICIPAL AIRPORT COMMISSION, WEST MEMPHIS, AR
Mr. JONES. Good morning. I am Steve Jones, Chairman of the West Memphis Airport Commission, West Memphis, Arkansas. I have been a member of the Commission for 12 years, a pilot for 29 years and, being a business owner in West Memphis for 27 years, understand the economic impact our general aviation airport has on our community.
Chairman Duncan, Ranking Member Lipinski and members of the Aviation Subcommittee, thank you for this opportunity to express our wholehearted support of Committee Chairman Bud Shuster's legislation.
H.R. 111's provision to take the airport trust funds off budget, as well as H.R. 1000's proposed increase in AIP funding levels over the next 5 years, is critical to the very existence of general aviation airports. These revenues are desperately needed to fund airport improvements and maintaining existing facilities.
Let me first address some national statistics provided by Phil Boyer, President of AOPA, and then we will talk about specific issues affecting the West Memphis Airport.
There are three times more general aviation flights than commercial flights. In the U.S. there are 400 scheduled air service airports and 5,000 GA airports. However, primarily due to a lack of funding, and this is provided by 1996 statistics, general aviation airports are closing at an alarming rate of one per week, while general aviation is steadily increasing.
The negative impact the loss of GA airports has is creating a shortage of commercial pilots; forcing more business jets and smaller aircraft to use major airports, which causes increased traffic, greater delays and safety concerns; and a loss of economic development opportunity. GA airports are critical to the recruitment, retention and growth of local businesses and industries as we are now all competing in a global marketplace.
Page 23 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Now that we have discussed national statistics, let's visit specifically on issues at West Memphis that will be positively affected by AIR 21.
Our airport opened in 1964. We are a designated reliever to Memphis International. We have 93 base customers, with a waiting list of 50 which would be based there today if we had additional hangar space. We have a 6,000 foot runway, with full parallel taxiway, 56,000 square yards of apron, 112,000 square feet of hangar space, and 11 buildings on 430 acres.
AIR 21'S comprehensive 5 year authorization for more money for runways and equipment will enhance safety and economic growth of our community. These three examples are just a few:
Ten years ago, an FAA team selected a site at West Memphis for an automated, on-field weather reporting system. Lack of funding has prevented the equipment from being purchased and installed. Weather, as we all know, which can change rapidly, is a key issue of safe landings. From a safety standpoint, funding for this equipment, its installation and maintenance are imperative. Currently, pilots flying into our airport obtain weather reporting from Memphis International, which is approximately 12 miles from West Memphis. With the Mississippi River between us, our weather conditions can vary significantly from Memphis.
Entitlement programs specifically for GA airports will enable us to reconstruct our apron and connecting taxiways. Over the past several years, we have been reconstructing our apron in phases. Last year 14,500 square yards, or approximately one fourth of our apron, was reconstructed at a cost of over $600,000. Runway, taxiway, and apron repairs are costly, ongoing maintenance expenses.
Another provision in the act increases FAA Facilities and Equipment's budget by 50 percent. Maintenance is equally as important as building improvements and installing equipment. At West Memphis, one of the MALSR stations, a pole supporting one of the approach light systems that aids aircraft in landing, is dangerously close to dropping into a 35 foot drainage bayou. A year and a half ago, our Commission spent $28,000 in an attempt to stabilize the bank. While it has slowed the soil erosion, more money than we have available is needed to drive pilings and install more rip-rap. F&E has assessed the problem, given it high priority, but has no funding at this time to prevent a potentially disastrous situation.
Page 24 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Our airport problems are typical of the other 92 Arkansas airports. Our State Department of Aeronautics and FAA representatives are invaluable resources. However, a lack of funding often ties their hands.
I urge you to support this legislation that will safely bring aviation into the 21st century. Thank you for allowing me the great privilege to share with you our concerns and support of AIR 21.
Mr. DUNCAN. Mr. Jones, thank you very much for your statements. You have got a good problem there, to have 50 businesses waiting to get into your airport. But, as you pointed out, if we can pass the legislation next week, it should make a pretty big difference for small airports around the country. Thank you very much.
Our next witness is Mr. William Gehman, who is Deputy Director for Aeronautics of the Michigan Department of Transportation. While he is coming to the table, his sponsoring member is Mr. Ehlers. Dr. Ehlers, do you wish to welcome Mr. Gehman or make any statement at this time?
Mr. EHLERS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
It is a pleasure to welcome William Gehman to this chamber as a witness. He is currently Director of Aeronautics, Michigan Department of Transportation, and has been in that position since December, 1985. He also serves as a Director of the Michigan Aeronautics Commission, which is a nine-member nonpartisan board appointed by the governor which sets policy in the State of Michigan.
Mr. Gehman has worked in the field of aviation since 1965, first in the private sector and then with the FAA and out of the Michigan Department of Transportation. He is a licensed professional engineer as well as a licensed commercial pilot.
In 1989, he received the President's national award from the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials for his innovative programs in improving air service. In 1992, he was one of just two individuals in the United States to receive the Airline Transport Association's Award of Excellence.
Page 25 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 He is currently Chairman of the Board of Directors of the National Association of State Aviation Officials and has served as Vice Chairman of their standing Committee on Aviation. He is a very fine person, has done a good job for Michigan, and I am eagerly awaiting to hear what words of wisdom he has to offer us.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you very much, Dr. Ehlers.
Mr. Gehman, you may begin your statement.
TESTIMONY OF WILLIAM GEHMAN, DEPUTY DIRECTOR FOR AERONAUTICS, MICHIGAN DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION
Mr. GEHMAN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman and distinguished members of the committee. I thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today and talk about a subject that is very near and dear to my heart and also of ultimate importance to both the State of Michigan and the Nation.
I would like to extend our recognition and regular appreciation for the committee's efforts in developing H.R. 1000 which we surely believe is landmark legislation, and I am looking forward to seeing the progress of that legislation.
As chair of the National Association of State Aviation Officials, I can also speak from a national perspective as to the importance of an adequate airport infrastructure. Every American, whether or not they fully realize it or not, is surely a beneficiary of the Nation's aviation infrastructure. This was declared by the National Civil Aviation Review Commission as one of the most significant engines for economic development there is. Today, aviation accounts for more than 6 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product and is growing every day.
Page 26 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Unfortunately, all too often the importance of aviation is measured by the number of passengers using scheduled air service and ignores the important role that general aviation plays in transportation. In Michigan, general aviation carries 14 million passengers annually and provides access to over 100 communities.
As the head of the Michigan Bureau of Aeronautics, I know that Michigan communities depend on an airport system to provide access for business, corporate, tourism, and personal travel not only in the State of Michigan but worldwide.
What we are seeing in some cases in the State is that many corporations and companies are buying aircraft that have overseas nonstop capabilities. Many of our general aviation airports are not capable of handling that type of aircraft. They need to end up stopping along the way to refuel because they can't fuel their airplanes as efficiently and operate out of their local airport.
We have put together a plan, a 5-year plan, the Michigan Department of Transportation, for aviation across the State. This plan is for the years 2000 to 2004. There is $618 million that is needed in this 5-year period just in the State of Michigan. These are not pie-in-the-sky projects. They are projects that have been screened and are necessary improvements to assure that the aviation infrastructure is preserved and developed to meet the needs of the 21st century.
I would just like to mention that over $200 million of these projects are just for general aviation needs. I would like to give just a brief explanation of some of the projects in some of our member's district.
Mr. Ehlers, thank you for that nice introduction. Just talking about some of the projects that are in his district, which includes the city of Grand Rapids as well as many of the surrounding areas in the western part of the State. Kent County International Airport in Grand Rapids is a small hub. It serves not only general aviation but also, of course, is the air carrier airport for that area. That airport alone requires $53 million over the next 5 years for reconstruction of the main runway and to expand their cargo area and aprons to meet increasing demands.
Page 27 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Other general aviation airports in Mr. Ehler's district include Greenville Municipal Airport, $350 thousand; Ionia County Airport, $1 million; Hastings Airport, $1.2 million. Sparta Airport, north of Grand Rapids, is a rapidly growing area with needs of over $3 million to extend and rehabilitate the main runway there. These projects are projects that are needed to not only preserve but develop those airports for increased demands.
Mr. Barcia, who is also a member of the full committee, represents a district in the eastern part of the State. Some of the general aviation airports in his district include Huron County Memorial Airport runway extension and some other development there, $1.9 million; Oscoda-Wurtsmith Airport, which was formerly a military airport converted to civil use about 6 years ago, $6.4 million needed there; Harry Browne, a satellite airport in the Saginaw area, $2.4 million there. These are just some of the examples that are needed in the State for general aviation airports.
Other airports of different sizeand I would like to specifically mention Oakland County International Airport. This is a reliever airport that serves as a reliever for the Detroit Metropolitan Airport. It has over 350,000 operations a year. It is one of the busiest general aviation airports in the Nation. This airports requires $30 million in the next 5-years and yet is a reliever airport. There is no identified source in the current AIP program to fund this type of airport.
The State of Michigan contributes $5 million annually for general aviation infrastructure. We are supportive of doing what we can for those airports. We support an increase in the State apportionment from 18.5 to 20 percent. Also, we serve as a block grant State.
This is a success story for Michigan. It is supported both by the airports and the FAA airport personnel.
I think one of the most important issues and, of course, it has been addressed in H.R. 1000, is taking the Aviation Trust Fund off budget or through some other mechanism guaranteeing that all of the dollars that are collected in the trust fund are spent annually for aviation purposes. The Michigan Aeronautics Commission supports that concept. You should have before you their resolution that they passed in November supporting that concept.
Page 28 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 In summary, I would just like to say that we can no longer afford not to properly fund critical airport needs at all levels of airports in our Nation. Now is the time to take action. You have surely recognized that, and we need to do that before our infrastructure further deteriorates or can no longer meet transportation needs.
Mr. DUNCAN. Mr. Gehman, thank you very much for coming here and giving this statement to us. Thank you very much.
Our next witness is Mr. Gary R. Shafer, who is the airport manager for the Southern Illinois Airport. As Mr. Shafer is coming to the table, I would like for his sponsoring member, Mr. Costello, to make any statement or welcome Mr. Shafer.
Mr. COSTELLO. Mr. Chairman, thank you.
First, let me thank you for calling this hearing today.
I want to welcome Mr. Shafer for being here today and for his willingness to testify before the subcommittee. Gary Shafer has 22 years of experience in managing airports. The last 20 years has been at the Southern Illinois Airport in Carbondale, Illinois. He has been the manager of the Southern Illinois Airport for the past 18 years.
In addition to his position as manager of the airport, Mr. Shafer teaches airport management at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale in the undergraduate program and lectures frequently in the master's program at Southern Illinois University. In addition, Gary is a board member for the Illinois Public Airport Association.
Mr. Chairman, again, thank you. I welcome Mr. Shafer here today and look forward to hearing his testimony.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you very much, Mr. Costello.
Page 29 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 TESTIMONY OF GARY R. SHAFER, AIRPORT MANAGER, SOUTHERN ILLINOIS AIRPORT AUTHORITY, CARBONDALE, IL
Mr. SHAFER. Thank you very much.
Chairman Duncan, Ranking Member Lipinski and members of the subcommittee, thank you for inviting me to speak to you today about the general aviation airports and the important role AIR 21 will have in preserving and promoting them.
As my Congressman indicated, I manage the Southern Illinois Airport in Carbondale, Illinois, which is a rural part of America. Our airport covers 750 acres with three runways and 17 buildings and is home to the nationally renowned aviation programs of Southern Illinois University.
We are currently in the midst of a $3 million airfield expansion and the construction of three new buildings. Nearly 200 people are employed at the airport, and we have an economic impact on our local area of $13 million per year.
Finally, we were recently designated as General Aviation Airport of the Year in Illinois, our third such honor in the 12-year history of the award program.
I would like to begin, Mr. Chairman, by thanking you, Chairman Shuster, Representatives Oberstar and Lipinski, members of the committee, the full committee, and staff for crafting a bill that will help preserve the future of general aviation airports. I have provided written comments for this hearing that more fully explain my enthusiasm for this bill, so I will use my remaining minutes to identify some key features of AIR 21 that are important to our segment of the industry.
As you know, general aviation airports serve a vital role in our local and national economies by linking thousands of communities together with the use of general aviation aircraft. This represents the largest segment of airports and aircraft in the country. Many of these communities have no ready access to the substantially fewer airports that receive scheduled airline service.
Page 30 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Over the past few decades, more than 2,500 general aviation airports have been recognized as nationally significant, thus qualifying them to receive capital funding assistance from the Federal Government. As you know from other testimony and reports, we depend on this assistance for our very preservation. We have few other capital funding sources to accomplish important airport safety, repair and improvement projects because we lack the means to retire conventional forms of debt financing.
AIR 21 recognizes our plight by substantially increasing our funding pool and providing for the first time an entitlement program for GA airports. Because our airport category must compete for all of its funding on a merit basis, the new entitlement program will help us maintain our airports while awaiting larger improvement grants. In addition, the increased PFC provision will allow even more AIP dollars to be turned back for the use of small airports, which is an acknowledgement by our larger airport partners of our funding limitations. AIR 21 also continues the important contract tower program at full funding levels.
This overwhelmingly successful program is vital to our airports and nearly 170 others nationwide, a large number of whom are general aviation airports. The bill also permits communities to encourage the economic health of their area by lengthening their general aviation runway to accommodate the turbine powered aircraft most often used by expanding companies.
AIR 21 provides for all of these programs and more while also addressing two fundamental issues that particularly matter to us: first, that our general aviation airport users currently pay sufficient fees for the use of the national airport and aviation system; and, second, that trust fund revenues should be fully used for their intended purposes so that adequate money can be made available for the preservation of our airports.
Mr. Chairman, we again commend everyone who is involved in the creation of this landmark bill. We hope that other Members of Congress will recognize the important features of this bill that will enhance the general aviation airports in their own districts. You can count our voice among those who will work for its passage.
Page 31 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Thank you also for the honor of appearing here today.
Mr. DUNCAN. Mr. Shafer, thank you very much for a very fine statement. It has been a privilege to have you with us.
We are going to have to break for a vote, but I believe that Dr. Ehlers has a statement from the Governor of Michigan that you wish to mention at this time.
Mr. EHLERS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate you recognizing me for this purpose. I had hoped to have this by the time of my opening statement, but it wasn't here. The Governor of the State of Michigan has sent a letter to Mr. Shuster, the chairman of the committee, indicating a strong support for the Airport Improvement Program, and support for the reauthorization for AIR 21. He indicates a strong support for a balanced budget, but also believes that is the absolute necessity to take the trust fund off budget so that we have the integrity that we need to use the taxpayer dollars appropriately and also to fund the needs of the country.
I ask for unanimous consent that this be placed in the record.
Mr. DUNCAN. Without objection that will be so ordered and placed in the record.
[The information follows:]
Mr. DUNCAN. We will break at this time. I am told that we have one vote right now, but we should not have another vote for at least an hour. So we will proceed with the hearing after just a very brief recess.
Page 32 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Mr. DUNCAN. I would like to call the hearing back to order at this time.
The next witness is Mr. William D. Miller, II, who is the Director of the Oklahoma Aeronautics and Space Commission; and I would like to ask Dr. Miller if he would please move to the table at this time.
Dr. Miller, thank you very much for being here with us; and you may proceed with your statement.
TESTIMONY OF WILLIAM D. MILLER II, DIRECTOR, OKLAHOMA AERONAUTICS & SPACE COMMISSION, OKLAHOMA CITY, OK
Mr. MILLER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Our unity as a Nation is sustained by free communication of thought and by easy transportation of people and goods. Together, the united forces of our communications and transportation systems are dynamic elements in the very name we bear, the United States. Without them, we would be a mere alliance of many separate parts.
I didn't write those words, Mr. Chairman. President Eisenhower did. He spoke those words nearly 45 years ago on the eve of the creation of the Interstate Highway System.
Words as eloquent and powerful as those are once again being spoken in response to the leadership of Chairman Shuster, Ranking Member Oberstar, yourself, Mr. Chairman, and Ranking Member Lipinski, along with the 75 members of the largest and most bipartisan cooperative committee in Congress.
Through your leadership, the largest public works project in this Nation's history, TEA 21, was passed last year, and we applaud you for bringing the same vision to aviation with AIR 21. The opportunity to appear before this committee is a distinct honor.
Page 33 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Little Rock, Arkansas, Chairman Shuster and I were visiting yesterday wondering how could we have avoided that.
Systemically through funding improvements of innovative concepts like Doppler radar, insuring that our airports have precision landing systems at all runway segments would ensure that our flying public has the best possible system of safety. And we think that AIR 21 is a step, a major step, towards that end.
Collectively, all the States through the National Association of State Aviation Officials, NASAO, applaud this committee's efforts and endorse the passage of AIR 21.
The key for the preservation and promotion of America's general aviation lays in the premise of cooperative efforts between communities, States and the Federal Government. Throughout our Nation, communities and States are realizing the potential of general aviation and are investing billions of dollars in the projects and processes to bring this long-neglected segment into the 21st century.
In my State of Oklahoma, the legislature and governor, in a bipartisan effort, last year passed the largest highway spending program in State history. This year, they continued this commitment to transportation by increasing funding to general aviation airports through the dedication of both excise tax and fuel taxes to the State Aeronautics Revolving Fund. This effort will triple funding to general aviation airports over the next 3 years.
We feel that aviation is a national interest. We feel that FAA expenditures should be funded primarily by general fund contributions. And we think that the Airport and Airway Trust Fund dollars are to be used as they are intended, for capital improvement. We need to uncap the Passenger Facility Charge, allowing those local commercial airports to enact a user fee to help fund their improvements.
This committee has recognized the need to rectify the long-standing neglect of our general aviation infrastructure and has acted through AIR 21 in a forceful and visionary manner. Oklahoma, like many States, has had the dubious honor of being a ''donor'' State in our current system of funding. Our best estimates, for the figures are unattainable from the FAA, is that for every dollar that Oklahoma provides to the Airport and Airway Trust Fund, we get somewhere in the vicinity of 16 to 17 cents back. Any legislation addressing aviation funding must contain an equity clause, Mr. Chairman.
Page 34 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 The ability of the States to manage and plan complex infrastructure can be jeopardized if the process can be slowed down. The AIP must be reauthorized and appropriated at a minimum level of $5 billion annually over the next 5 years. Oklahoma, like most States, has a Capital Improvement Program, and a consistent 5-year AIP would allow us to plan and execute the systematic infrastructure improvements that we need to do for the 21st century.
As we stand on the threshold of the 21st century, Congress faces a crossroadsto continue the neglect, stagnation and deterioration of our general aviation infrastructure or to follow the road that the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure has chosen to form an alliance throughout America, to foster the rebirth of general aviation through a shared leadership and vision.
I ask Congress to join with you, this committee, in leading communities, cities and States across America on a road that ensures the transportation of our citizens in a safe and economical manner. I ask Congress to join this committee and make the commitment to continue the vision started with the passage of TEA 21. I ask them to join the predecessors of this People's House and continue the vision begun 45 years ago with the interstate highway system. AIR 21 offers the same prospect, a synergistic process to rebuild our general aviation infrastructure, just as has been done with TEA 21.
Thank you for the honor and opportunity to come before you today, Mr. Chairman. I applaud you on your leadership and the vision of this committee on AIR 21 and encourage the remainder of Congress to support a swift passage to fulfill the promise that it holds.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. DUNCAN. Dr. Miller, thank you very much. When we went to the last vote, Chairman Shuster mentioned to me your visit, he very much enjoyed that, and he was very interested in your statements concerning the unfortunate accident in Little Rock. But thank you very much for a very fine statement. I appreciate it.
Page 35 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Mr. MILLER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. DUNCAN. Our next witness is Mr. Michael Dikun, who is the Airport Manager for the Adirondack Regional Airport; and his sponsoring member is Vice Chairman, Mr. Sweeney.
And, Mr. Sweeney, as Mr. Dikun takes the stand there, would you like to welcome him to the subcommittee and make any statement at this time?
Mr. SWEENEY. Yes, I would.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman; and, as other members have said, I want to commend you for holding today's hearings and for your efforts throughout this session to address the critical needs of aviation. I think it is a perfect time, given the fact that AIR 21 will be on the floor or slated to be on the floor next week, that we really refocus our attentions on the needs of aviation, the need to establish improvements, especially the increases in AIR 21, over current funding levels available for general aviation airports.
Mr. Chairman, I have six general aviation airports in my congressional districts, and three more located nearby that serve my constituents. Many of these airports are in dire need of runway improvements, methods to enhance accessibility, machinery for snow removal and, probably most importantly, technology. One of those airports that is going to have one of the greatest responsibilities and burdens placed upon it in the next year, given some of the things that are happening in the region, is the Adirondack Regional Airport.
As you mentioned, Mike Dikun is here, who is the Airport Manager. I want to welcome Mike, who does a terrific job. I know he recognizes the significance of AIR 21 and what it will mean. I want to thank him for coming down and giving us his time.
And I thank you, Mr. Chairman, for yielding.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you, Mr. Sweeney. Mr. Dikun.
Page 36 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 TESTIMONY OF MICHAEL DIKUN, AIRPORT MANAGER, ADIRONDACK REGIONAL AIRPORT
Mr. DIKUN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, honorable members of Congress. I would like to thank you for the opportunity to address this committee on issues that are facing general aviation airports.
General aviation is a diverse and multifaceted segment of our Nation's transportation system. I have addressed the scope of this diversity in the written comments I have provided you and would like to expand on several issues.
My predecessors and colleagues have all expressed the same basic idea, that airports are capital-intensive facilities. Runways, taxiways, aircraft parking areas, hangers are all expensive to acquire and maintain. New taxiways and ramps can cost approximately $25 per square yard in upstate New York to acquire. Runways would be considerably more, due to the weight-bearing requirements of the runway.
Pavement maintenance is an ongoing requirement. Crack sealing needs to be done on an annual basis to extend the life of this expansive pavement system. Crack sealing equipment can cost $30,000 to procure, thousands of dollars to continually operate on a yearly basis. Oftentimes, general aviation airports, with their limited revenue sources don't have the financial means to do this preventive maintenance.
Snow removal, in the country where I come from, is a primary consideration. We need specialized equipmentsnowblowers, runway sweepers, snowplows. A new runway snowblower or sweeper can cost a quarter of a million dollars or more to acquire. Small general aviation airports don't have the capital resources to acquire that sort of equipment.
Additionally, equipment is necessary for clearing parking lots, hanger areas and other areas of the airport.
Page 37 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 The staffing level requirements at general aviation airports are high. Airports need to be staffed for extended hours, and they are operated 365 days a year. Holidays, weekends, after-hours calls are all part of being an airport employee.
Airports are required to pay for this through overtime and maintaining a staffing level that oftentimes the local entities don't feel is warranted. Snowstorms result in long hours and lots of additional pay in the form of overtime.
Small general aviation airports are often owned and operated by governmental entities with limited resources. We often cannot afford to have duplicate or dedicated equipment at an airport. Municipal owned airports adjust to this situation by sharing personnel and sharing equipment. The problem arises when, for instance, we share snow removal with the local town. What gets plowed first, the highways or the airport?
These issues need to be resolved, and it happens through capital expenditures. With proper management and creative personnel use, most general aviation airports can come close to paying for the direct operation of the airport. But there is no way the capital improvement needs of a small airport can be met by the local government.
Because of this reality, it is critical to the general aviation airports of this Nation that House Resolution 111 to remove the trust fund from the general budget and AIR 21 be passed. I strongly support the resolution that the aviation trust fund be taken off budget. This fund should be used as it is intended, to support the Nation's aviation system.
The recent FAA studies on system growth indicate we will have an aviation system that is inadequate to meet the future demands of the 21st century. The trust fund must be invested wisely, but it must be invested to prepare for the next century.
Airports are required to submit 5-year Capital Improvement Programs to the FAA. This allows the FAA to determine anticipated funding needs for the airports' capital needs. But we cannot plan for these 5-year plans if appropriations come in 6-month and 2-month increments. This AIR 21, with its proposal for a 5-year Capital Improvement Program, is absolutely critical to allow airport managers to do their job.
Page 38 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Airports are economic engines for their communities. One of the primary considerations of business for location in a certain area is accessibility. If a company has air carrier service available or the ability to support air charter operations at the location they are considering, they are much more likely to choose that area.
Our Nation's economy is one of rapid transit and rapid exchange of information. Safe, expanded general aviation airports will support this economic growth. The new trend toward fractional ownership of business aircraft will lead to a much greater use of general aviation airports. Many more individuals and corporations will have access to corporate air service, and this will continue to place an increased capacity demand on general aviation airports, as well as increased infrastructure needs to support the larger, high-performance aircraft used. AIR 21 is the best solution available to meet these demands.
I thank you, Mr. Chairman, and your committee for your continued efforts on behalf of America's smaller airports; and I would also like to thank you for the honor to address this committee and discuss the needs of airports.
Mr. DUNCAN. Mr. Dikun, thank you very much for being with us today and for your statement.
Mr. Sweeney, did you have something else?
Mr. Dikun, take a seat once again.
Mr. SWEENEY. I do, and I will make it brief.
Mr. Dikun, you talked a little bit in general terms about the constraints that the 6-month authorization for AIP will have on your planning abilities. If you could very briefly go into some detail for us and maybe even put it in some perspective. Because, with the announcement of the 2000 Goodwill Games for Lake Placid, which is an area that you service, what effect is that event having on your airport and what types of preparation are necessary? Or haven't you been able to accommodate the needs of those folks?
Page 39 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Mr. DIKUN. Well, on the first issue of the level of appropriations, oftentimes, you know, an airport manager or airport owner is faced with large capital expenditures such as runway improvements and taxi overlays and such; and to be able to do that job in the most fiscally responsible and efficient manner, you need to establish a plan for it and have that plan to be able to follow through. Whereas, if you are basing it on the appropriations might be available or they might not, it creates a much more shoot-from-the-hip type of planning; and that is not fiscally responsible.
As far as the Goodwill Games and our ability to deal with that, Adirondack Regional Airport is in a unique situation. As you are well aware, the population base in upstate New York is not what we would call large and yet the adjacent location of Lake Placid, a world-renowned international sporting location, causes the town that I work for and my airport to prepare for the influx of upwards to 10,000 spectators per day for an event.
That is a traffic flow and an operational and logistical nightmare. Our pavement is in not the best condition. I have no ramp space to park the aircraft on. They dealt with the same thing during the 1980 Olympics. I am going to end up being forced to close a runway to use as an aircraft parking area. I have ideas on how to accommodate it, but it is going to be kind of a jumbled-up place for a while.
Mr. SWEENEY. Give us a contrast between that rush time and what you are normally used to handling. When you say there are 10,000 spectators a day, that is obviously a significant influx. What is your normal capacity?
Mr. DIKUN. Well, we are serviced by a small U.S. Air Express commuter airline; and last year we inplaned 5,640 passengers.
Mr. SWEENEY. For the year?
Mr. DIKUN. In the year, that is correct. And so we are gearing up to do the best we can with what we have. And I believe that the legislation that your Committee is considering is a major step in helping not only airports like Adirondack Regional, with a somewhat unique situation, but all airports across America to deal with the traffic volume that we are going to see.
Page 40 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Mr. SWEENEY. I thank you, Mr. Dikun.
And I yield back my time.
Mr. DUNCAN. Well, thank you very much. Thank you, Mr. Dikun.
Mr. DUNCAN. The next witness is Mr. William G. Barkhauer, who is the Airport Director for the Morristown Municipal Airport. Mr. Barkhauer.
TESTIMONY OF WILLIAM G. BARKHAUER, AIRPORT DIRECTOR, MORRISTOWN MUNICIPAL AIRPORT, MORRISTOWN, NJ
Mr. BARKHAUER. Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, I thank you for the invitation to appear today as you consider the critical issue of the role of general aviation airports in our national transportation system.
Imagine for a moment an airport in an urban area with a runway designed to handle 737s and MD80's, a precision instrument approach, and over a quarter million operations a year with heavy jet aircraft activity. The facility has nearly 300 based aircraft and a healthy amount of international traffic supported by a U.S. Customs facility. It also has a multimillion dollar annual budget and in the past has been in the recipient of millions of dollars in AIP grants.
To many people, I have probably just described a good-sized air carrier airport, located in a large metropolitan area. But in this case that is only partially correct. While this airport is indeed located in a major metropolitan area, it is not an air carrier airport but, rather, a large GA reliever, specifically Morristown Municipal Airport located in northern New Jersey and the airport I have managed since 1982.
For large GA reliever airports to play their appointed role in the system, which is to provide a viable alternative for various types of traffic that would otherwise create capacity problems at nearby commercial service airports, a quite sophisticated physical plant is required. Reliever airports generally do not require extensive landside facilities such as large terminal buildings or parking areas for thousands of cars, but they do require an airside physical plant equivalent to that found at most commercial service airports, which allows them to safely handle a traffic mix that includes business jet aircraft, military aircraft, commercial jet charters, helicopters, plus all of those ubiquitous Cessnas and Pipers.
Page 41 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 This requirement presents a unique challenge, since many of the traditional income sources available to commercial service airports, such as parking lots, terminal concession revenue and rental car commissions, just to mention some, either don't exist at relievers or are significantly reduced. AIP funds are limited to discretionary dollars, and there are no PFCs.
The requirement to run a commercial service caliber facility but with limited revenue sources is probably the greatest challenge that most reliever airports face. This makes it absolutely critical that relievers be able to count on a steady and predictable flow of Federal AIP monies to meet their major airside capital needs.
In the State of New Jersey, the challenge has been particularly formidable in this regard since New Jersey became an AIP block grant State in 1996.
Although our airport remains eligible to receive AIP discretionary funds through the State and has had a number of worthy major projects, we have received no AIP discretionary funds since 1996, the year that New Jersey became a block grant State, and have received only one small grant from the State's AIP apportionment fund during that time. This compares, by contrast, to an average AIP funding level of nearly $1 million annually that we previously received from 1983 through 1995. Whether the root of this problem is with the State's coordination of discretionary funding requests with the FAA or with the FAA's procedures for handling such requests from block grant States, is not entirely clear to us.
I am certainly not suggesting that the State has singled out us out for any particular abuse or neglect or anything of that nature, but their resources are limited. And the bottom line is that our airport has not fared well with AIP funding since New Jersey became a block grant State.
As we look forward to a series of heavy airside capital needs over the next 3 to 5 years as projects we did with AIP money perhaps 10, 12 years ago begin to reach the end of their useful life, we view this situation with serious and growing concern.
Page 42 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Specifically, at the risk of sounding a parochial note but for the information of the committee, I have five important capital projects at Morristown in need of Federal funding assistance, including construction of a badly needed parallel taxiway to increase capacity during peak periods; construction of a 10-foot high perimeter fence for wildlife control to deal with series problems that we have had with deer strikes and other wildlife difficulties; the rehabilitation and overlay of the main instrument runway and most of the airport taxiway system; and, finally, some badly needed runway safety area improvements.
Finally, I would now like to turn my attention to legislation pending before the House to reauthorize programs of the FAA. H.R. 1000, or AIR 21, as it is also known, would be a tremendous boost to airports of all sizes. In general, I am reminded of an old line that a rising tide lifts all boats. The major funding increases for AIP that would be possible through the enactment of AIR 21 would increase funding for GA airports.
Additionally, GA airports would see a dramatically increased small airport fund and would also benefit from the proposed increase in the setaside for GA reliever nonprimary commercial service airports from the current 18.5 percent to 20 percent.
The creation of a new general aviation entitlement of up to $200,000 per year would also be a very welcome provision.
The provision in the bill directing the Secretary to grant priority consideration to airport development projects to support operations by turbine-powered aircraft would be particularly helpful to many large reliever airports across the country that have heavy jet traffic.
And, finally, the provisions in the bill dealing with the contract towers and the cost-sharing pilot program will certainly be helpful to smaller airports.
In my airport's opinion, this legislation is the only bill that is now pending before the U.S. Congress that attempts in a systematic and comprehensive way to address the growing requirements of our Nation's aviation infrastructure. If we are to move one billion passengers safely through our skies within a decade, we cannot afford to wait and cannot afford to ignore the obvious. We need to act and act now, and we certainly hope that AIR 21 is passed by the House later this month and adopted by the Senate.
Page 43 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 I appreciate the opportunity to be here and testify and certainly would be pleased to answer any questions.
Mr. DUNCAN. Mr. Barkhauer, thank you very much.
As you have stated, and as I said earlier, the legislation we have in the House probably does more or certainly does more for smaller- and medium-sized airports than any legislation in the history of the Congress. And I don't know what kind of bill we will end up with finally, but we are going to try and give it a good start here in the House.
You came here on the recommendation of the American Association of Airport Executives, and I know you are very well respected within your profession. And thank you very much for being with us and for your statement today.
Mr. BARKHAUER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you.
We will proceed now with the panel that we have scheduled. The panel consists of Mr. John H. Anderson, Jr., who is Director of the Transportation Issues, Resources, Community and Economic Development Division for the United States General Accounting Office; Mr. David Traynham, who is Assistant Administrator for Policy, Planning and International Aviation at the Federal Aviation Administration; Mr. Phil Boyer, who is President of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association; Mr. Pete West, who is Senior Vice President for Government and Public Affairs of the National Business Aviation Association; and Mr. Edward M. Bolen, who is President of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association.
TESTIMONY OF JOHN H. ANDERSON, JR., DIRECTOR, TRANSPORTATION ISSUES, RESOURCES, COMMUNITY AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT DIVISION, U.S. GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE; DAVID F. TRAYNHAM, ASSISTANT ADMINISTRATOR FOR POLICY, PLANNING AND INTERNATIONAL AVIATION, FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION; PHIL BOYER, PRESIDENT, AIRCRAFT OWNERS AND PILOTS ASSOCIATION; PETE WEST, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT, GOVERNMENT AND PUBLIC AFFAIRS, NATIONAL BUSINESS AVIATION ASSOCIATION, INC.; AND EDWARD M. BOLEN, PRESIDENT, GENERAL AVIATION MANUFACTURERS ASSOCIATION
Page 44 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Mr. DUNCAN. Gentlemen, thank you all very much for being
here. And we do proceed in the order in which the witnesses
are listed on the call of the panel; and that means,
Mr. Anderson, we will proceed with you first. You may begin
Mr. ANDERSON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee. I am glad to be here today to discuss FAA's oversight of and the funding for capital development at general aviation airports. I will summarize my statement and ask that my entire statement be entered in the record.
Last month, we reported to this subcommittee on FAA's oversight and enforcement of land use policies at general aviation airports; and in prior reports and testimonies, we have discussed airports' capital development needs and funding sources.
First, I would like to discuss FAA's efforts to ensure that GA airports comply with Federal requirements on the use of land. We found that FAA needs to improve its oversight of the Nation's investment in GA airports. Only four of the FAA's 23 field offices make any attempt to monitor the use of airport land, and these four offices do so by having the airports self-certify that they are in compliance.
The bottom line is that FAA's field offices rely primarily on third-party complaints to identify any compliance problems. However, relying on airport's self-certifications and third-party complaints is not sufficient to ensure compliance. For example, in 1994, the DOT IG reported that 14 of 15 airport owners viewed they were not complying with revenue use requirements, even though they had certified that they were in compliance. Tellingly, third-party complaints had been filed against only two of the 15 airports.
Because FAA does not monitor GA airport's compliance, no one knows the extent of noncompliance. During our review, we identified 24 airports where unauthorized land use occurred since 1990, but there are probably more.
Page 45 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Unauthorized use of airport land can result in loss or diversion of millions of dollars in airport revenues and safety problems. For eight of the 24 noncomplying airports that we identified, almost $7 million in revenues had been lost or diverted. For four of the 24 airports, inappropriate land use led to aviation safety problems. For example, a plane hit an unmarked and unlighted hole caused by the unauthorized construction of a sports facility at one of the airports. Fortunately, no injuries occurred in the accident.
Our report made a number of recommendations to help FAA improve its own oversight at GA airports. We recognize that FAA has limited resources, but we believe they could do more than they are doing right now to oversee GA airports with compliance requirements and identify potential problems before safety or regulatory problems occur.
A combination of actions would probably be effective, including using AOPA's national contact points as another set of eyes, so to speak.
Now let me turn to the issue of capital development plans of general aviation airports and how they compare with current funding levels.
Over the last few years, we have reported and testified several times on capital funding shortfalls for the Nation's airports. For example, we reported that GA airports planned capital development for 1997 through 2001 was estimated to be $1.5 billion per year, or about twice what these airports raised in 1996.
For this hearing, we updated information on 1998 AIP funding and planned development and found that, while the Federal funding shortfall has decreased somewhat, AIP grants were still only able to cover about 35 percent of the projects that were AIP-eligible.
I need to add, however, that these planned projects probably do not include all of the potential expenses of sustaining the current aviation infrastructure.
Chances are that the costs for maintaining the Nation's airport's runways over the next 10 years will be considerable, especially for GA airports. For example, in examining about a third of the Nation's general aviation airport runways that are eligible for AIP funds, we found that the cost to rehabilitate and maintain them in good condition will approach $1 billion over the next 10 years. However, unless the majority of these funds are provided immediately, the costs will grow to $3 billion and take longer to complete. This is because the longer you delay runway repairs, the more expensive the repairs become.
Page 46 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 In summary, improved oversight by FAA is needed to ensure that GA airports abide by Federal requirements. In terms of funding, planned capital development far exceeds the funding available from the Airport Improvement Program. There may be many more capital development projects looming over the horizon that will exacerbate the funding shortfalls.
That completes my statement. I would be glad to answer any questions.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you very much, Mr. Anderson.
Mr. TRAYNHAM. Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, I am pleased to be here this morning to discuss the Federal Aviation Administration's policies and plans related to the operations of our Nation's general aviation airports and their critical importance to our national aviation system.
This marks my first scheduled appearance before your committee since I assumed my position at the FAA just over a year ago, and it is nice to be back with you.
May I take this opportunity on behalf of Administrator Garvey and Secretary Slater to thank you for your leadership in securing the passage of the short-term extension of the FAA's Airport Improvement Program through August, 1999. I know that airport owners and operators appreciate your continued interest in seeing the AIP program continue in a normal fashion, and we continue to look forward to working with you to develop multiyear reauthorization legislation.
General aviation airports are critical to the overall infrastructure of the U.S. aviation system. Indeed, of the 3344 existing airports identified in the FAA's national plan, 2,472 are general aviation airports and 334 are reliever airports for general aviation. General aviation airports, with an average of 29 based aircraft, account for 37 percent of the Nation's GA fleet. These airports are the most convenient source of air transportation for approximately 19 percent of the population and are particularly important to the rural areas of the country.
Page 47 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 The FAA has long encouraged the development of high- capacity general aviation airports in major metropolitan areas. These specialized airports, called relievers, provide pilots with very attractive alternatives to using the congested hubs. They also provide general aviation access to the surrounding area. The reliever airports have an average of 181 based aircraft and together account for 32 percent of the Nation's GA fleet. These statistics confirm what we at the FAA have long recognized, that GA airports are of critical importance to supporting a strong and vibrant aviation industry.
We take seriously the issues raised by the GAO's recent report on the FAA oversight of land use at GA airports. We appreciate the efforts of this committee and the GAO in examining our oversight of the FAA's policies and procedures for these airports, and we intend to make a formal response to the GAO report in the near future.
However, let me say at the outset that we do not share GAO's conclusion about the adequacy of monitoring GA airports compliance with Federal requirements. We believe that the FAA has internal controls in place to effectively monitor the activities at GA airport owners and operators. Most importantly, we do not believe that the incidents highlighted in the GAO report are at all indicative of a systemwide problem with the general aviation airport community.
It is important to note that with respect to the airports identified by the report, these airports have not closed. These airports continue to operate and serve general aviation aircraft owners and operators. In fact, even in those instances where the GAO report notes inappropriate uses of airport land, the FAA has worked with the airports to address these issues to ensure the safe and efficient use of the airport for general aviation users.
Moreover, we believe that the instances raised by the GAO are very minimal in terms of the big picture. In fact, none of the instances raised in the GAO report are new to us at the FAA. The FAA was aware of the problems at the particular airports, and the FAA field office staffs identified these airports to the GAO auditors. The airports sampled where ongoing issues continue, which is three airports out of 506 sampled, this represents less than 1 percent of the airports sampled.
Page 48 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 As noted by the GAO report, the FAA has a policy handbook that requires field offices to monitor airports for compliance with Federal requirements. The handbook requires field offices to conduct limited surveillance of each airport every 4 years to detect deficiencies and system weaknesses. We appreciate the review of our handbook and practices by the GAO and acknowledge that our field offices do not currently adhere to some of the policies contained within our handbook in terms of frequencies of inspections and investigations. We are in the process of reviewing our policies and procedures, and we will take into account the recommendations made by the GAO report.
Just as a side note, the procedures handbook is about 10 years old. It does need to be updated, and we plan to do so over the next several months. I would note that the policy guidance that is available to FAA inspectors is up to date. It just has not been all compiled into one useful handbook, but they do up-to-date materials to work from.
Our policy requiring an on-site inspection every 4 years was developed during the 1970's, and the aviation and airport industries have changed much since then. More recently, the FAA has concentrated its resources on larger airports and major revenue diversion cases, major cases involving rates and charges, and other significant compliance matters.
It is important to note that within our field offices our staffs perform multiple tasks, including oversight and enforcement of airport practices. However, we question whether the smaller, community-based general aviation airports merit the level of Federal monitoring as contemplated in the GAO report. In fact, we believe that such a recommendation diverts scarce resources away from more serious and egregious cases of revenue diversion and other practices at our Nation's airports. And, again, the number of airports written up in the GAO report are a very small percentage of the sample.
Before shifting resources among the airport's division staff, the FAA would engage in a cost-benefit analysis to determine whether the agency should investigate the activities of these small communities' airports. One option would be to conduct a statistical sampling of the airports in which to direct compliance of GA airport owners and operators. However, we would caution the committee that the fundamental law of diminishing returns suggests to us that the heightened independent level of scrutiny is not warranted when compared to the airport community at large.
Page 49 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Our main policy objective has been and continues to be to ensure the right of access to pilots and other users of the system to these airports. Despite the low level of problems highlighted by the GAO report, these airports have not been closed to the GA community. Open, public access to these airports should be the first concern. In fact, in the reauthorization proposal transmitted by Secretary Slater to the Congress on February 8th, the administration proposed before the Secretary of Transportation or the Administrator could issue a waiver of any grant assurance with respect to the use of the airport property, the Secretary would be required to provide at least 30 days' notice to the public of such a proposal. In addition, the proposed legislation requires an opportunity for public comment.
We note that the Senate Commerce Committee and this committee have included this proposal in their reauthorization legislations; and, in our view, this is a much more cost- beneficial, cost-effective way to address any problems that exist, which we again think are very small, then increasing FAA staffs and costs to the taxpayers, as the GAO would suggest we do.
Effective monitoring of all airports can be accomplished with our aviation partners also through self-certification and user monitoring. Any user of the aviation system can file a complaint with the FAA when that user believes that the airport owner or operator has taken action that affects an airport's aeronautical functions. In addition, we believe that the Aircraft Owners and Operators Association, airports support network, holds great promise in assisting us. In many respects AOPA's membership infrastructure can more readily identify problems and assist in the development of appropriate response when warranted.
Mr. Chairman, on this point also we strongly dispute any suggestion that negotiating with an airport owner or operator is not enforcement. Rather, we believe that negotiation with general aviation airport owners is the most effective tool available to the FAA staff.
Page 50 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 While litigation and the withholding of grants are certainly tools available and have proven effective in some situations, we believe that the minimal level of the instances noted in the GAO report does not necessarily warrant such drastic actions. And I would just observe, in the context of withholding a grant, that means that infrastructure development is delayed or foregone at that airport.
Because this hearing is also devoted to looking at the infrastructure needs of GA airports, let me turn to FAA's plans for supporting these airports. The administration recognizes there is a need to increase investment in airports of all sizes but particularly in our general aviation airports.
The FAA's NPIAS estimates the costs associated with establishing a system of airports adequate to meet the needs of civil aviation and is the Federal Government's authoritative source of airport system needs. The 5-year estimate of the total plan for airport infrastructure needs is up to $35 billion, a $5 billion increase over our last estimate. Specifically, at the 2,800 general aviation and reliever airports, our total estimated needs remain relatively constant at $6.4 billion over 5 years.
Because of legislation by this committee and the administration policies, let me just say a great deal of general aviation airport infrastructure has been developed around this country. In the past 17 years, over $2.9 billion has been spent on GA airport infrastructure. So this is not by any means neglect, and administration policies and proposals in the reauthorization would accelerate this pace of development as would your bills out of this committee.
Let me just briefly mention a couple of the issues. We would provide for a turnback when there is a PFC increase from 3 dollars to 5 dollars. All of the funds fromthe entitlement funds would be foregone, and that would go to small airports.
In addition, we would increase the State apportionment from 18.5 percent to 20 percent. And we would also make a new proposal that we have worked with in conjunction with the National Air Transportation Association to lengthen runways for business aircraft use at 800 airports around the world, and NATA's work on this has been very forward thinking.
Page 51 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Finally, our pavement maintenance pilot program has demonstrated the value of extending the useful life of runways, taxiways and aprons. The administration proposal amends the definition of airport development to include these types of pavement projects.
In many respects, the FAA and this committee have already identified the need to work together and make adequate investment in all of our airports, including GA. We appreciate the efforts of this subcommittee to develop a multiyear reauthorization proposal which will provide a steady and reliable source of funding to make the necessary investments at our aviation infrastructure. We look forward to working with you on this legislation as the balance of the year unfolds.
That completes my testimony, Mr. Chairman. I would be pleased to answer questions when you get to that point.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you very much, Mr. Traynham.
Mr. BOYER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Many before me have spoken of their organizations and who they represent. You know that we represent the pilots here in the United States. You know that we also support very heavily AIR 21. As a matter of fact, these same pilots, combined with this excellent legislation, are writing letters and have been writing letters over the last 30 days. Last week, we sent Western Union mailgrams to our members in those districts where there were congressmen and women who cosponsored the highway trust fund bill last year but did not yet cosponsor the aviation trust fund bill, and we look forward to next week.
I am not going to bother you with the economics of general aviation. You have heard those already from me and other panelists today. But I am going to say thank you, thank you, thank you for investigating and calling for this GAO study to look into the abuses of our airport compliance program.
Page 52 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 These programs, the AIP grant assurances, are basically contracts, as you well know. They require an airport or a sponsor retain the facility as an airport and the land be used for aeronautical purposes. These are no different than the contracts that you and I enter into when we buy a house. When we default on a payment for a couple of months, we are not negotiated with, it is demanded we put up the money.
If we violate a zoning regulation for some property that we have, use it for a business purpose rather than for personal uses that it was zoned for, we hear about it right away. There is no negotiation.
These grant assurances require oversight at big airports and small airports, and they require enforcement.
And what John explained to youand Congressman Lipinski, I see you had it in your handin this study, they say that the FAA has shirked their responsibilities. They have monitored only 21 percent of those general aviation airports. You heard it from John. Four of 23 FAA offices are only monitoring these, and only three of these four offices inspect.
These are the GAO words: waste, fraud, abuse. And at stake, yes, are some awful small airports, but at stake also is $4.7 billion that has already been put forth in funding these airports. Outrageous abuses, a dog pound, nonaeronautical use, a water plant, Little League baseball parks, mobile home park, a senior citizen center, a mosquito control unit. And, yes, we continue to get things like hunting and farming areas right up next to the airport.
Here is one of the worst abuses, a landfill. Now, what happens when you have a landfill around an airport? Well, you create a lot of bird activity. And what happens when you have birds and airplanes? Our pilots know. Try dodging those. As a matter of fact, in these hunting areas and landfills, bird strikes have accounted for damage to engines, shattering windshields. Accidents have occurred. No fatalities yet, thank goodness. And where is the FAA action?
Page 53 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 How do these things translate to actual airports? We can talk fast like the FAA did when they were caught with their pants down, as this study shows, but let us talk about specific airports.
This doesn't look like a little airport. It is a pretty vibrant airport outside of Kansas City, Missouri. The call a couple years back was to close the airport and use it for some very, very good industrial purposes that might coexist with an airport, intermodal rail and a big transportation hub.
What is the fair market of that airport? The FAA would say it is best to negotiate. It doesn't sound like a good negotiation when the FAA negotiated $15 million and the value of that airport, if we look at the surrounding ones, is $33 million. This same airport was also donated because it used to be as used as a military base, and the FAA policy requires clear aviation benefit if you were to change the use of that donation at fair market value. The GAO called that usenot my word, their wordimproper.
Aspen, Coloradohere is the language. The FAA airports are to serve all without unjust discrimination against any category, type or class of airport user. And there were some unfair general aviation restrictions. These go clear back to 1989. GA could only use the airport in the daylight. Commercial flights, however, could use the airport till 11:00 p.m. Clear and simple, a violation of the grant assurance clause.
We complained about this. Restrictions continued. Grants continued to be given to this airport. The FAA process took 5 years, and it wasn't until Congress got involved that we finally were able to resolve that airport issue.
Just a sidebar. If anybody has been around Aspen, Colorado, it is not an airport that any of us would like to fly into at night, but it was the precedent that was important there so our own Air Safety Foundation put out a brochure: If you are going to use this airport at night, here is the way you better be prepared to pilot your way in.
Page 54 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Here is one, Congressman Lipinski, that we talk about quite often, a wonderful airport on the Chicago lakefront owned by the Chicago airport's department, technically on the property of the Chicago Parks and Recreation District. Now, the same aldermen that govern the city govern the parks, but, forget that, the city has claimed that the park department owns it, so the city is not a party to the FAA grant assurances. They were with the city parks department.
Well, if we look deeper, we thought this was a clear and simple violation of grant assurance. No, we find that the FAA wrote a special grant assurance that allowed the city to repay grants if a long-term lease or purchase agreement for the airport is not entered into. In other words, the city, not contracting with the parks department, that they could get out of their Federal grant.
Actually, the FAA deemed themselves powerless in this case; and it was only through intervention by the legislature, the government, ourselves and a local group that this airport has remained open until 2003.
Here is one closer to home, for instance. This is a vibrant little airport, very much like Meigs, close to the Boardwalk in Atlantic City, a 7-minute walk versus a $45 cab ride if you come into the major airport. What was happening here, abuses with a baseball field, some other city improvements that had absolutely no aeronautical uses. And then this support network that we all have talked about called AOPA said they are digging up the taxiways.
We call the FAA regional office. We said, this is not in compliance. We will look into it in a few weeks. No, no, you don't understand. The taxiways are being dug up right now.
We then called the FAA Washington headquarters office of airports. We will get the district office to look into it.
Within about an hour, David Hinson, who you all remember is our former administrator, returned my call. I told him what was happening, and he stopped it.
Page 55 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Now, the FAA has just testified that there are none of these airports that have closed. Well, I would beg to differ.
A little airport up in the New Hampshire- Massachusetts border. A small airport, 44 based aircraft, had a problem. The city was making about three to four million dollars a year off a landfill at the end of one of the runways. And, obviously, as this debris and dirt and refuse piles up, it becomes an aviation hazard.
February of 1996, this was called to our attention. There were businesses at that airport. There were people who kept their airplanes there. The FAA OKed the closure of this airport, and reluctantly the people moved their aircraft and went away. They said, however, under the grant assurance, you must pay $30,000 to the nearby New Bedford Airport for general aviation improvements. As of June 9th, today, the dump is there, the airport is gone.
As a matter of fact, when you say, why did we let that happen? Well, landfill on one end and this happens with our airports, a nursing home on the other end. So that is one we had to lose.
In other words, the GAO has said that the FAA has failed back in the 24 cases and only two were cited as noncompliant.
There is enforcement that can be applied, civil penalties. They can reclaim title. The Secretary of DOT can withhold funding. But none of these have happened. The FAA is not using its enforcement actions effectively is exactly what the GAO report said. Let us not cover it up in any other way.
They have taken some forward steps. The airport revenue policy has been revised. It requires audits. The compliance division has been established. The FAA is understaffed, they say. GAO has told us in their report that the FAA has really gotten more people but unfortunately monitor, as David said, the larger airports, not the smaller airports. Remember, 98 percent of all of our airports are general aviation airports. The GAO recommends additional authority is unnecessary.
Page 56 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 We have got the laws on our books right now. We need the backbone of the FAA to enforce the law.
Fall River, Massachusetts, is just a simple case of where is the check if you are going to close the airport?
Hold these field offices accountable. Actually visit airports once in a while, check compliance, and then look for helpful relationships, as they say. Use our airports support network for this.
We have a person positioned at one of every one of our general aviation airports to monitor these issues. But even after we write the FAA, as I have just shown you, or call it to their attention, nothing really happens fast.
Our recommendation is, don't do anything in terms of any more than enforcing these recommendations. Let us hold the feet to the fire. If we need some legislation to keep them on track, let us pass it. We have passed some language on to your counsel that might be included at the last moment here in the bill. Or let us make sure that they give you compliance information. Let us set a deadline for them giving you a report.
How about on-site inspections of these airports? Shouldn't the committee here receive a report after this hearing on such?
This handbook that they talked about, here it is. 1989 is the date on it. That is the last time we have updated any of these things. How about regular on-site monitoring? Educate the airport sponsors. How about an annual report to this committee and to Congress on the compliance of our airports? These are truly a national part of our aviation infrastructure. They are important to those of us who fly and own general aviation airplanes.
And I thank the committee once again for ordering this study and for understanding the implications in its release.
Mr. SWEENEY. [Presiding.] I thank you, Mr. Boyer, for your testimony.
Page 57 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Our next witness will be Mr. Pete West, who is the Senior Vice President of Government and Public Affairs for the National Business Aviation Association.
Mr. West, welcome.
Mr. WEST. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Congressman Lipinski and Congressmen Costello, Bass, Metcalf and Cummings who are with us, as well as the professional staff who do such great work. I say that so I can segue to saying how honored I am at being here at David's first.
To summarize our written testimony, general aviation airports are critical to business aviation as well as the other elements of general aviation who are represented here at the table. These important facilities are our lifeblood, allowing NBAA's 6,000 member companies to reach thousands of diverse locations throughout the country, most of which are presented for your
This is my visual compared to Phil's. In the green map that is part of the testimony that was submitted for the record, 90 percent of these 3,500 close-in paved 3,000 foot or more runway airports are only accessible easily by general aviation. It is something to consider.
Fortunately, especially based on the commendable actions this subcommittee and the full committee have taken, you and your colleagues clearly realize this as well. NBAA praises your effort to free the Aviation Trust Fund to maintain a healthy general fund contribution, the latter reflecting an awareness that not only should the government's use of the system be paid for but the benefit for the general public even for those who don't fly should be addressed.
Of course, H.R. 1000, AIR 21 is the vehicle for accomplishing this, and it is the measure that we are endeavoring to support as hard as we can. A modest infusion of dollars can bring exponential returns. Again, we thank you for your attention and wisdom relative to aviation, particularly, general aviation airports that we rely on.
Page 58 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Further, this subcommittee clearly understands the role FAA should and must play in protecting the taxpayers' investment in these facilities, as evidenced by this hearing. Satisfying your leadership role in the promotion of general aviation airports can ensure through AIR 21 and its passage that the FAA protects them as part of the national system of airports.
General aviation airports needs to be viewed as a community asset, not a nuisance. Some very vocal groups that would like to close or severely limit access to these facilities should not be and cannot be successful in this respect. Where the groups have been successful, there has been some serious erosion of our national airport system. In these instances, businesses failed to reach their markets and communities lose their access to the regional economic hubs, the national and the global economies.
It is the responsibility of the aviation community to illustrate the value of these facilities to the general public, and the FAA must be compelled to rely on the tools Congress has already provided it to ensure the airports remain open and viable and that the funds are used wisely. The FAA must enforce airport grant assurances vigorously, do its job of protecting taxpayer investment and do its job of guaranteeing the national aviation and airport system.
Further, collective land use and/or airport closings weaken the aviation system, and that is airport land use violations, and they must be addressed. FAA has an obligation to preserve the national interests in this regard, while promotion is the broader aviation community's responsibility, including those with jurisdiction and Congress.
Again, we appreciate your attention to and oversight of the FAA's role in promoting the taxpayers' interests. Business aviation and all of general aviation is inextricably linked to the health of general aviation airports. Thus, we strongly support your efforts to unlock the trust fund, continue the general fund contribution at a healthy level and gain a renewed commitment from the FAA to protect and preserve general aviation airports.
Page 59 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 These efforts as well as positive signals we have received from Administrator Garvey and her colleagues at the FAA about working in partnership to strengthen the safety and efficiency and capacity of the aviation system leave us hopeful as we pursue our vision to ensure the safety, efficiency and acceptance of business aviation.
Thanks for your time and your focus, and I look forward to listening to what Ed has to say.
Mr. SWEENEY. Mr. West, thank you very much.
Our next witness is Mr. Edward Bolen, President of General Aviation Manufacturers Association.
Mr. Bolen, welcome.
Mr. BOLEN. Thank you very much. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to testify.
Although many people in the subcommittee probably can't believe this much time has passed, but we are actually coming up on the 5-year anniversary of passage of the General Aviation Revitalization Act. I am pleased to report that, since that act was passed, general aviation has experienced tremendous growth.
Our annual sales of general aviation aircraft have more than doubled. We are seeing exports significantly increasing, and a number of people are learning how to fly again. We are seeing that tens of thousands of manufacturing jobs are being added every year.
This is not just good news for those of us in the general aviation industry. It is good news for all Americans and that is because general aviation is the foundation for our Nation's aviation infrastructure. General aviation is the primary training ground for the commercial airline industry. It is our economic link in rural and small communities, and it is also a significant engine in our Nation's economy.
Page 60 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Since our U.S. manufacturers have been able to invest their resources in research and development rather than lawsuits, we are seeing a whole host of new aviation products, products which are making significant advances in the state of our technology. As a result, we are seeing that general aviation is becoming an even more efficient and effective mode of transportation for Americans.
But the reality is that general aviation will not reach its full potential if we do not have a tremendous system of general aviation airports in the United States. We need to stop the closures that everyone so far today has talked about. We have got to stop the bleeding.
Phil Boyer talked about how we can use AIP grant assurances to do that, and he is absolutely right about that. Compliance with a Federal contract should not be optional. We have got to strictly enforce these contracts.
But I think forcing contracts to make people keep their airport open really only treats the symptoms. It does not get at the underlying problem, which is that, in far too many cases, people do not value their local airport as a community asset. We have got to help people see the values and benefits of their airports.
I think we also have to help them see that their local airport is not just an isolated slab of concrete. It is part of the national infrastructure system.
I think people inherently seem to understand that the railroads are part of the system. They understand that the highway is part of the Federal system. But they don't see that with airports. We have got to change that if we are going to keep these airports open.
Of course, as daunting as the challenge is of keeping the airports open, the reality is that is simply not enough. We need to invest in our airports because we need to upgrade them, we need to enhance them and improve them. In some cases, we need to develop new ones.
Page 61 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 I realize that this is a difficult time to be calling for additional investment. There are discretionary budget caps, and Federal dollars are scarce. But I would suggest that investing in airports is the right thing to do. The history books are clear on this. Countries that invest in transportation flourish. Countries which do not invest in transportation ultimately are weakened.
GAMA has long indicated that the investment that we make in our air transportation system should come from two sources. We should take all of the revenues raised from the aviation industry and use those revenues on an annual basis for aviation purposes. We have also advocated a strong and significant general fund contribution. These are the underlying principles of AIR 21.
That aviation revenue should be used for aviation purposes is simply a matter of basic fairness. Back in 1970 when the Airport and Airways Trust Fund was established, we were told that new taxes would be levied on the industry but that those taxes would be used to fund capital expenditures. Over the years, we have seen those revenues being used to fund operations and we have seen those revenues being used to mask the size of the Federal deficit. In fact, we have seen an acceleration of both of those things, and that is wrong.
That we should continue the general fund contribution is a matter of significant Federal policy. I want to call your attention to it because that general fund contribution is very much at risk right now. Our country has always recognized that people benefit from a strong air transportation system whether or not they ever set foot on an airplane. That benefit has always been reflected in the general fund contribution. That general fund contribution over the past several years has been used to fund the FAA safety and security activities. It has also been used to pay for the military's use of the system.
I urge this committee to work and try to save that general fund contribution, and we look forward to working with you on that and look forward to working with you to make sure that aviation revenues can be used for aviation purposes only. The fact of the matter is that, as we come to the close of what has been called the American century, we are about to enter a new century. Whether or not that, too, is an American century is going to depend an awful lot on the wisdom of the investment choices that we make. Transportation is a good investment, and aviation is the mode of transportation of the future.
Page 62 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 We look forward to working with everyone on this committee to do all we can to make sure that we invest properly.
Mr. SWEENEY. Mr. Bolen, thank you very much. I think that you have spoken as eloquently as any other witness or member, for that matter, on the passage of AIR 21, its importance, the importance of maintaining the general fund contribution to aviation.
I will begin the questioning and ask a very brief question to you and then go around the committee.
You mentioned that we needed to find a way to get local people to value their airports and general aviation airports as community assets. Please expound on that a bit for us and talk about what passage of AIR 21 would mean to maintaining a general fund contribution. If I could ask, Mr. Boyer, how do you and your association view that and what you do to promote the usage and the local involvement.
Mr. BOLEN. Well, I think one of the ways that AIR 21 can help is to address airports around the country there are airports that are in disrepair around the country. There are airports that can't meet their critical needs. There are airports that aren't equipped to be all-weather transportation centers.
As a result of that, they are not fully utilized, and people don't see the tangible benefits. They don't see manufacturing plants moving near the airports so that jobs can be created. They don't see the full potential that is out there.
I think that if we can develop our system of airports so that there are more of these all-weather transportation centers where people can reduce their door-to-door transportation times that people are going to see the benefit of their airport whether or not they ever get on an airplane. I also think they are going to utilize those more. So I think that is really key.
Mr. SWEENEY. Mr. Boyer.
Page 63 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Mr. BOYER. Well, there are very few constituents that don't turn out for the ribbon cutting for the new highway or intersection or place they can drive their car. But we have so infrequent and so low funding for many of our GA airport projects that they are not really publicized the same way we publicize the tying together of two interstates or something.
I think that AIR 21 will definitely bring visibility, just based on the initial numbers to the airports, the size of large commercial airports and the infrastructure improvements that this bill will give to airports and communities like Wheeling, Mount Prospect and other places around the country.
As far as our association is concerned, I think that the committee is aware that we testified here last time on airports that we have started a support network that has been referred to by the government agencies and others. We produced a tape last year, 26 minutes in length, and I think that we sent a copy to every member of this committee, that talks about local airports, the value to our Nation and brings up the economic benefits that Ed did.
We don't even think about one thing, and that is where do the airline pilots train? They don't go out to O'Hare and start flying airplanes. They learn at the small general aviation airports.
It is all of these factors that have to be brought to the general public. I think that every one of us on the association side has it incumbent on them to promote their local airports.
Mr. SWEENEY. I thank you for that. As the bells have indicated, we have a vote. So we will recess for that vote and come back and continue with the panel. Thank you.
Mr. SWEENEY. The committee will come to order.
Page 64 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 We will continue the questioning of our panel and start with our distinguished Ranking Member, Mr. Lipinski.
Mr. LIPINSKI. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Bolen, I want to say to you that we could use you between now and next week when we move AIR 21 through the House of Representatives. If you could go around and see all of those members of the Budget Committee and members of the Appropriations Committee and give them the same presentation that you gave here today, it would probably aid and assist us and make our job easier on the floor next week. I compliment you on that presentation. As I say, if you are free, we will be happy to employ you for the next week or so.
And to my good friend Phil Boyer, I want to say that the presentation that you made here of your organization's representation of the GAO report was absolutely magnificent. It was one of the most interesting, entertaining presentations that I have seen here in a good number of years, so I compliment you. It is not because you flew out to a little gathering that I had in Chicago on Monday night. It is really because of your presentation over here. And I noticed on Monday night you did also fly into Meigs Field, the airport that you highlighted here.
We have heard your presentation. For me to editorialize about it, it sort of sounded like the roof was falling in on general aviation. And we have heard my good friend David Traynham's presentation from the perspective of the FAA that, quite frankly, almost nothing is happening that the FAA is not totally on top of and they can handle it.
I would like to go back to Mr. Anderson here from the GAO and have him tell me, if he wishes, after he heard Phil's presentation and after he heard David's presentation, is there anything new that he would like to add to this ongoing discussion of general aviation airports and the FAA?
Mr. ANDERSON. Yes, Mr. Lipinski. I would like to add something.
Page 65 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 First, I would like to say that I was also very impressed by Mr. Boyer's presentation. I am glad that I came before him as opposed to after him.
I would also like to say that I have got a tremendous amount of respect for David Traynham. He and I have worked together for a number of years when he was with the subcommittee and in that capacity. So I empathize with where he is coming from in terms of FAA and the resources and the demands that they have placed upon them.
But I just have to say that FAA has a responsibility in this area. Basically, what our review showed is that they are not really doing oversight of general aviation airports' compliance with land use requirements. Only four of the 23 offices that we looked at were doing anything at all, and basically what they were doing was relying on the airports to self-certify.
We believe that self-certification and relying on third-party complaints for checking out problems is not the way to go. FAA needs to be proactive. I think within their existing resources they could probably come up with ways to do more than they are doing now. I just believe that waiting until something happens is too late.
I believe Mr. Traynham indicated that all of these cases, the 24 that we identified in our report, are things that they were aware of. They were aware of them but, in many cases, they were not aware of them until after the fact. Basically, they are trying to unscramble the eggs once they have been scrambled. That is always very difficult to do.
To the extent that they can do things and be proactive, and identify these thingsthey should. Clearly, there are a number of instances that are small types of things that, ultimately, they would sign off on and not have a problem with. But there are those that are more egregious. The ones that involve safety you have to be very, very concerned about. It could be just lucky that nobody has been hurt as a result of any of these things.
I think to the extent that FAA can come up with a way to get out there and interact and do this in a proactive way, it is going to prevent things from happening in the future.
Page 66 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Mr. LIPINSKI. If you stated either in the report or in your testimony, your oral testimony or your written testimony, what is your position pertaining toI missed this, so I am going to ask the question. What is your position pertaining to additional manpower for the FAA in regards to doing this job? Did you have any opinion on that? Did you state it anyplace?
Mr. ANDERSON. We did not say anything in the report, as I recall, about that except to say that FAA said that, because of resource limitations, they had to focus on the bigger airports. I would ask FAA to go back and look at the resources they have now. We did some rough calculations and just looking at it very roughly, they would only have to maybe do two airports a year for each of their field office staff. Now, some of the field offices would be more, but on an average that was what it was. I believe this is the type of thing where maybe they could do things differently than they have done in the past.
We mentioned and I believe that Mr. Boyer indicated that AOPA would be fully willing to cooperate, to serve as an extra set of eyes and ears, maybe doing some sort of targeting where they would do some field visits and combine that with some of their self-certifications and some other information and try to target where they would go.
We have identified that there were about 450 airports that have been given either surplus property from the Federal Government or nonsurplus property. Maybe that is one of the first places that they would want to look. To do some sort of statistical sampling might be a way to narrow down and at least look at some of the places they are not looking at now. We saw that 80 percent of the airports were not getting any coverage at all and only 20 percent were being covered by this self-certification process.
Mr. LIPINSKI. What was the number of field offices that did this?
Mr. ANDERSON. The self-certification was four of the 23.
Page 67 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Mr. LIPINSKI. Did you ascertain from the FAA why there were only four of the offices doing this?
Mr. ANDERSON. I don't know that we got an answer on that. I don't think that we did. If I were to guess about it, I would say that it is probably a decision on the part of each of the field offices where they needed to focus their resources. They have that requirement to do this.
Lots of times we will make choices and we will make judgments. But that meant that 19 of these offices were not really doing anything proactive in this area.
I think that what we have done is shine the light there that FAA headquarters needs to help to find a way to help those offices do something. To my knowledge, FAA has not asked for any additional resources in this area. But I believe if they think that they need more resources to cover it, they probably should have asked for it.
Mr. LIPINSKI. David, would you respond to my question about why there were only four offices doing it?
Mr. TRAYNHAM. As John indicated, this is a decision that has been made up at local office levels of work, with resources. Part of the reason the 19the balance of the 19 have not done it is that the experience of the four is that not much is found when you do this sort of thing.
Again, I would stress that of 506 land cases, of general aviation airport cases that the GAO looked at, they wrote about nine of them in their report, nine out of 506. I think there are 2,000 or 3,000 airports. I think it is safe to extrapolate that there are more than nine cases. But I think in the general scheme of things we are not finding much noncompliance out there.
There are some instances. Mr. Boyer pointed out a particularly egregious incidence of Bader Field in Atlantic City. But, by and large, we think a self-certification program, help from the users, informal activity by FAA airport inspectors, we do not do these formal inspections under our own policy for resource. But also we don't think there is enough of a problem out there to warrant devoting a lot of activity to this area. We are finding through other means that these are largely law-abiding citizens at these airports.
Page 68 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 Mr. LIPINSKI. It seems to me that what you said, David, may very well be true. But, by the same token, I think Phil has shown us some real problems that exist out there. Obviously, the GAO, who I have great respect for, to a certain degree concurs with him.
It would seem to me that maybe what we ought to try to give some considerations to is a real earlier response to some of the more serious problems that are brought to the FAA's attention. I mean, you both or all three of you may be correct in your evaluation of the situation, but one thing that comes through to me is that when there is a problem and it is a serious problem and it is reported to the FAA, there should be some very rapid response to that.
Now, Phil mentioned the fact that at one time he managed to get in touch with David Hinson and got the situation stopped almost immediately. If some procedure could be set up along those lines to where a serious problem being reported to the FAA could be gotten through to the proper authorities and then acted upon right away, I think that that would make everyone much happier with the situation.
Mr. TRAYNHAM. No question that some of these cases have drawn out for years. A lot of the time when that has happened there are gray areas. These are not all black and white cases. There is a due process sort of situation.
Yes, we can start mechanisms to speed up the response process. I think that John's suggestion that we go to a sampling sort of idea would be an effective way to go. But we think these cases that have been presented in the GAO report and by Mr. Boyer are largely isolated cases in the overall system. Ninety-nine percent of the airports are following the procedures that they are supposed to. We feel confident in saying that because of mechanisms other than a formal inspection program.
Mr. LIPINSKI. I am long past my time. I have a number of questions here for the GAO and the FAA and some for the other gentlemen that are here, too. I would like to submit the questions to you, and I would like to have them answered. You have been here quite awhile already, and I have been here quite awhile, so I am not going to ask any more questions of this panel.
Page 69 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Segment 2 Of 2 I would like to say though, in conclusion, that I appreciate all of your testimony here. I agree with what you are saying, David, but I also believe that we have to develop something that is going to respond to these major problems.
We are all reasonable people here. I think that we can all agree that there are some major problems that do crop up. I don't believe that Phil is really an alarmist. I think that what points he made are very good points, and he presented it in a genuine, sincere manner, so I think we should try to address them. After all, it is the people who he represents that are primarily affected by this, and certainly the safety aspects affects the membership of his organization.
Mr. Chairman, thank you.
Mr. SWEENEY. Thank you, Mr. Lipinski.
I would like to associate myself with Mr. Lipinski's remarks and reiterate that there are some serious concerns out there and we hope and believe and we will work with you in moving to resolve them.
Let me also reiterate and thank for your great testimony and ask that each of you who are able, and I understand some are not, to help us in the next week as we go to the floor on AIR 21, gear it up and recognize that we are in the home stretch. We need your help. We thank you for your help thus far as well and for your testimony here today.
Since there are no other members here and we have reached the end of our questioning period, I will let the panel go; and I will adjourn this hearing. Thank you.
[Whereupon, at 12:43 p.m., the subcommittee was adjourned.]