By Kevin M. Burke
Over the last couple of days, I have had the chance to tell the airport story in several local and national forums. My consistent message: Airports need greater funding flexibility and the ability to generate local dollars for local capital projects with a higher PFC ceiling.
In an interview with CNN that was focused on the poor standing of U.S. airports compared to our global peers, I noted, “there’s no question that U.S. airports suffer from an image problem globally, and the main culprit is our nation’s lack of dedicated infrastructure investment, particularly in its aviation infrastructure.”
“Many of our airports are operating well beyond the capacity for which they were originally intended several decades ago, and this is the reason why air travelers — international and domestic — experience crowded terminals and outdated facilities.”
I noted that the U.S. airport ownership model differs so dramatically compared to major airports around the world. Thus how we obtain funds and then use the funds is much more restricted than the corporate-owned, profit-driven airports.
Today in an op-ed published in The Hill, a publication that covers Capitol Hill and the federal bureaucracy, I wrote that “we could use more creative solutions, certainly, but greater flexibility at a minimum. Airports are a good case in point. Funded primarily from fees paid by airport users, airports urgently need a federal policy change that would increase the cap on the Passenger Facility Charges so that every local airport has the flexibility to invest in its own capital improvements.”
These are the kinds of policy hurdles that stymie transportation infrastructure investment at just the wrong time in our history, I noted. The cost of the status quo is clearly unacceptable. The time for more flexible federal transportation policy is now.
And, that was also my message on Thursday afternoon when I participated in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s 13th Annual Aviation Summit on a panel concerned with Today’s Regulatory Environment. The panel was moderated by Washington Airport’s Jack Potter and joining me as speakers were former FAA Administrator Marion Blakey (now with AIA), Doug Lane from Boeing and Rob Wilson from Honeywell.
My colleagues on the panel had been able to incorporate the latest advancements in their systems, despite challenges with FAA certification, but I reported the airport industry has not been able to modernize its funding system. That has to change. “We need a regulatory system that allows airports to fund the critical safety, security and efficiency improvements that allow the United States to compete and win in the global aviation industry.”