Aviation Legislation Term Paper – 1976- Airport and Airway Development Act Amendments

Airport and Airway Development Act Amendments of 1976 mark a very big transformation in the aviation industry of the United States. A bill proposing the amendment of the Airport and Airway Development Act of 1970 was introduced on September 22, 1975. The Congress agreed to make the proposed changes on December 17, 1975 and the rule was passed in House on December 18, 1975. On March 25, 1976, the bill was passed by the senate with incomplete changes and it was later sent back to the House for approval. The new Airport and Airway Development Act was signed into bill by the President on July 12, 1976 after which it became law. The bill was later published as Enrolled Bill on the same day it was signed (Civil Impulse, LLC, 1976)a.

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The Airport and Airway Development Act of 1970 legally allowed State and local airport operators to receive grants to finance airport development projects. The law also authorized the Department of Transportation to construct equipment that facilitated air traffic control. The funds used to finance these projects came from the Airway Trust Fund. The money used to maintain the Trust Fund was initially obtained from charges on airport users including owners of aircrafts, passengers, and aircraft operators (Civil Impulse, LLC, 1976)b. The Administration proposed various changes on the Airport and Airway Development Act of 1970. It was recommended that the Act should allow the State to manage the aviation development programs. In addition, the Act was supposed to allow the use of Trust Fund moneys to cover maintenance costs of the air traffic control system. Unfortunately, the initial changes did not adequately address the concerns of the Administration. One important thing that was omitted was the proposed transformation of the aviation tax system in order to make it more equitable. Several other provisions were questionable and required further clarification. The Airport and Airway Development Act amendments of 1976 addressed the Administration’s concerns (Civil Impulse, LLC, 1976)b.

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The Enrolled bill following the proposed amendments addresses several features including the funding level of the Federal Trust Fund, distribution of funds, federal share, types of maintenance funded by Federal Trust Fund revenues, eligibility of projects carried out at the airport, as well as issues concerning reimbursement of United States air carries. Specifically, in the new bill, airport development grants have been increased from 2.5 million United States dollars to 4.695 million United States dollars. Moreover, the Enrolled Act has redefined the airport development projects to include a number of activities including construction and repair of facilities directly related to movement of luggage and passengers, alteration and repair of snow removal and security equipment, acquisition of land for building terminal, and establishment of airport improvement plans (Civil Impulse, LLC, 1976)b.

Airport and Airway Development Act Amendments of 1976 authorize for improvement in the manner in which the public airport system is developed. Furthermore, the new Act authorizes appropriations for general aviation airport development and for general airport system planning. A new provision in the Airport and Airway Development Act Amendments of 1976 requires that the funds for every fiscal year should be made available to the carrier airports in the same periods as grants (Civil Impulse, LLC, 1976)b. The law however prohibits project applications from proposing any airport developments that are not included in the Act and that are inconsistent with the proposed plan. Under the new Act, the federal share of project costs should be 90 percent each year for enplaned passengers, 90 percent for other general aviation airports, and 75 percent for other airport costs. Out of these funds, 50 percent are construction and repair costs, 75 percent of the costs are meant for maintaining terminal facilities, and 75 percent are meant for project planning (Civil Impulse, LLC, 1976)b.

The Airport and Airway Development Act Amendments of 1976 give the Secretary various legal powers in relation to development projects that are undertaken at the airport. The Act authorizes the Secretary to offer clear terms and conditions related to various project prior to approval. This will allow for extension of funds required for development of carrier airports and reliever airports from one fiscal year to another. Moreover, the Act allows the Secretary to compensate air carriers for any charged incurred in security screening and in procedures related to foreign transportation. The Secretary is also required by the new Act to study the feasibility of planned development projects and report within one year if they can allow for expansion of existing airports (Magnuson and Warren, 1976). Furthermore, the Secretary needs to assess the practicality and cost of improving the airport’s sound system in order to ensure that the surrounding hospitals, schools, and health facilities are not affected. The Secretary should also provide quarantine services at the entry sites to the airport without any reimbursement to the owners of the said aircrafts. He or she should take affirmative action to assure every employee and passenger than no person will be discriminated against on the basis of race, color, nationality, sex, and gender with respect to disbursement of funds received under the Airport and Airway Development Act Amendments of 1976 (Magnuson and Warren, 1976).

One question that one may ask is whether Airport and Airway Development Act Amendments of 1976 authorizes the use of Airport and Airway Trust Fund solely for financing aviation infrastructure. Since the Airport and Airway Development Amendments was passed by Congress in 1976, the Airport and Airway Trust Fund can now be used for maintenance and operation of airport facility expenses. The 1976 includes an addition section titled “Other Expenses” which was not there in the 1970 Act. The added provision states that the balance of monies available can be used to cover costs of services related to joint financing and navigation services. These monies can also be used to cater for direct costs incurred in maintenance of navigation facilities. However the Amendments Act of 1976 states the limits that should be spent on “Other Expenses” for fiscal year between 1976 and 1980. These provisions tend to reduce trust fund spending to rates below 15 percent (Murphy, 1999). Since the Airport and Airway Trust fund was created in 1970, it has solely been used to finance aviation infrastructure. However, the Airport and Airway Development Act Amendments of 1976 authorizes the use of the trust fund to finance additional maintenance costs and for cost related to operation of air navigation facilities. Most importantly, the Airport and Airway Development Act Amendments of 1976 includes authority to grant funds that would be used to acquire land that would be used for noise abatement programs. The new Act also increases the government’s share of airport development projects for big airports from 50 percent to 75 percent (Murphy, 1999).

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