The United States Congress, back in February, passed and sent the Federal Aviation Administration Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 to President Obama, who signed it into law a few days later. It authorizes $63.4 billion for the FAA over four years, including about $11 billion toward the air traffic system and its modernization, and speeds up the change from radar to ATC based on GPS in the “Next Generation” system. The law also mandates an increase in access to airspace for military, business and privately owned drones.
Why, you might ask, reading now, should you be interested?
First off, there is much in it that will affect you as a pilot or an aircraft owner or even as a passenger in a jetliner; some good, some I’ll let you judge for yourself, and some that may trouble you, but we’ll get to in a moment. Second, its passage is historic in that it ends an agonizing period of extensions and stopgap measures under which the FAA has been operating since 2005. The 23 extensions of FAA’s budget since 2004 have kept things flying, but improvement of the nation’s aviation and airspace systems—whatever your opinion of the various bits and pieces, from NextGen, to commercial pilot fatigue rules, to rural airports guarantees—has been slowed by Congress’s failure to commit to longer-term funding for the FAA.
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