The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee held a hearing for Acting FAA Administrator Michael Huerta on his nomination to be administrator of the agency. Huerta has served as acting administrator since Dec. 5, 2011.
Lawmakers asked Huerta a number of questions about his mid- and long-term priorities for the agency, specifically in the areas of aviation safety, pilot training, fatigue rules, NextGen and the implementation of the mandates included in the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) expressed concern about the higher local match that small airports in Minnesota and elsewhere are required to come up with as a result of the FAA reauthorization bill. The bill raised the local match requirement from 5 percent to 10 percent — a higher threshold that AAAE strongly opposed.
Klobuchar said she is concerned that this new requirement could force small airports to delay completion of critical infrastructure projects that were underway before the higher local match went into effect. She stated, "I don't think it's fair to change the rules in mid-stream," and she encouraged Huerta to work with her to find a way to help small airports.
Huerta responded by saying that small airports are critical to the aviation system and that he understands the burden that the higher match is having on small airports. He said FAA staff is willing to work with individual airports that are struggling to meet the new requirement.
AAAE has been urging Congress to extend the 95 percent federal share for small airports. Last week, the House Appropriations Committee approved a AAAE-backed proposal that would extend the 95 percent federal share for projects that small airports started before the FAA bill was enacted into law in February. The provision is included in the House version of the fiscal year 2013 transportation spending bill. The Senate version of the bill includes a similar provision.