Senate OKs FAA bill

By:  Lynne Lynch
Source: The Columbia Basin Herald

MOSES LAKE - The Senate's reauthorization of a Federal Aviation Administration bill could help provide funding for future improvement projects at Grant County International Airport.

The $63.4 billion bill was approved by the Senate this week in Washington, D.C. and previously was passed by the House. The bill awaits the president's signature.

"The bill funds improvements on this airport and the other commercial airports in the country," said Patrick Jones, the Port of Moses Lake.

This year, the port received $2 million in federal funds for an apron replacement project on the airport's runway and is applying for nearly $8 million next year to complete the project, he explained.

"This stabilizes the funding as well as all the processes around delivering that funding in a timely way to the airport," Jones commented.

The port's future projects in its Capital Improvement Plan include runway rehabilitation, runway lighting replacement and improvement, security fencing and equipment and the rehabilitation of taxiway lighting, according to Jones.

Nationwide, about $13.4 billion is designated for Airport Improvement Grants through fiscal year 2015. The remainder of the funding goes toward the implementation of a GPS aviation navigation system called NextGen.

Jones wasn't certain when Grant County International Airport would see the NextGen system, but called it an  "absolutely necessary next step in the evolution of our system."

It allows aircraft to move more precisely coming into and departing from airports, according to Sen. Maria Cantwell's office, D-Wash.

NextGen may reduce flight delays by 20 percent nationwide by 2018, according to an FAA estimate.

Jones said he thought everyone in the airport system was relieved the updated navigation system was moving forward.

"This bipartisan bill is a winner for aviation innovation and job growth in Central Washington," stated Cantwell, the chair of the Senate Aviation Subcommittee. "It will support 12,000 Washington jobs as airports modernize to support regional growth. This long-overdue bill will help bring our aviation navigation system into 21st century GPS  technology. That means friendlier skies, fewer delays for travelers, greater efficiency for airlines, and new aviation jobs."