ACI’S MESSAGE ON AVIATION POLICY STABILITY HAS BROADER FISCAL IMPACTS AND POLITICAL LEADERSHIP IMPLICATIONS

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ARTICLE: Airports Are a Vital Economic Engine, ACI-NA Reminds Congress

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Though heavily regulated by the federal government and most commonly part of a state, region or municipal government, airports are ENTREPRISES that generate employment for 1.3 million Americans, support a total of 10.5 million jobs and provide an economic output of $1.2 trillion. That was the message of 65 airport directors to the Members of the US Senate and the US House of Representatives.

Why did Congress need to be reminded of these frequently quoted numbers? The letters cite the events of a year ago when the political process, for both liberal and conservative reasons, held the FAA budget hostage. That legislative logjam ONLY, or so the Congressmen thought, impacted the government employees of the FAA. The ACI message is that the failure to extend the funding of the FAA not only hurt the dedicated people who work for the FAA, but also caused serious interruptions to the finances of an airport.

The “product” of airports is runways which define, in part, the airlines’ capacity. The incremental improvements of an airport are designed and implemented on very long term planning horizons, ACI reminded their federal representatives. The summer of 2011 FAA budget hiccup created major problems for airports because without authorization for future FAA funding, the financial markets would not consider issuing the underlying debt instruments and without the promise of that cash, construction stops. Many of these facilities do not have the benefit of year around building seasons; so the loss of this authorization had long term impacts of future capacity.

ACI’s ultimate message is that airports need stability in their capital funding. They ask the Congress to be more careful when “trifling” with the AIP authorization.

ACI also raised the even more draconian, but incredibly unknown threat which bears the name SEQUESTRATION, which hangs over the defense budget, but may severely impact civil aviation!

That request for stability is wise counsel to Congress as to airports and the advice is equally applicable as to the funding of NextGen.

Historically, the Congressional leaders on aviation policy were able to negotiate the policy pitfalls for this critical industry on a bipartisan basis. Names like Mineta, Shuster, Ford and Kennedy, as well as others, were able to raise the issue to an apolitical level in order to enact bills critical to the growth of the aviation industry. Now is the time for today’s Members to define themselves as leaders, to come to the fore and to demonstrate that sort of leadership.

If no one steps forward to assume this mantle, the consequence may be the diminution of US aerospace on a global scale and the further deterioration of all aspects of the aviation infrastructure (NextGen, airports, etc.) that facilitate the US’ participation in the worldwide economy.

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