Sinema Introduces Bipartisan Bill Ensuring Arizona Airports’ Federal Funding Remains Unaffected by Lower Flight Volume During Coronavirus

Jul 16, 2020

WASHINGTON – Arizona senior Senator Kyrsten Sinema introduced the bipartisan Airport Infrastructure Readiness Act of 2020 with Senator Deb Fischer (NE). The bill ensures that Arizona airports do not lose federal funding for the Airport Improvement Program (AIP) and the Contract Tower Program due to the coronavirus and the decline in air travel.
“Safeguarding critical airport funding while we fight the coronavirus outbreak protects Arizona jobs and ensures Arizona’s airports remain economic engines supporting our state’s recovery,” said Sinema, Ranking Member on the Aviation and Space Subcommittee.
“This legislation would prevent Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, and airports across the U.S., from losing millions of dollars in future funding for airfield construction and other projects,” said James E Bennett, Director of Aviation Services for the City of Phoenix. “This would also provide important stability for Phoenix Goodyear Airport which relies on a contract tower to support its operations, which include airline pilot flight training schools, a Fixed Base Operator handling corporate aircraft, and an airline Maintenance Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facility.”
“Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport supports this legislation and the funding certainty it would provide for critical airport facility and infrastructure projects designed to increase safety and improve efficiency” said J. Brian O’Neill, Executive Director/CEO of Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport. “Gateway Airport has experienced tremendous growth in commercial passenger activity as air travelers discover the Airport’s unparalleled convenience and value. We appreciate Senator Sinema’s support for this bill and applaud her support of aviation in Arizona.”

Currently, funding for  the AIP is determined by the passenger volume at an airport during a calendar year. Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, passenger volume is significantly down and airports are concerned that they will be financially penalized. Airports participating in the Contract Tower Program are concerned that the decrease in passengers could require costly studies or threaten their continued participation in the program.
The AIP provides federal funding to airports with over 10,000 enplanements. AIP funding is distributed according to a formula based on the number of enplanements in the most recent calendar year with full data. Due to the unprecedented decline in air travel, airports are now concerned that in future years they will see a significant decline in AIP funding. Additionally, the 2018 FAA Reauthorization created new requirements for the Contract Tower Program. Under the new law, any contract tower airport that sees more than a 25% decline in air service must conduct a cost-benefit analysis of the tower’s effectiveness. Due to the significant decline in air travel, if this requirement is not waived, most contract tower airports would need to complete this costly study. Sinema’s Airport Infrastructure Readiness Act of 2020 resolves both of these challenges. 
Sinema’s bill is supported by Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, Phoenix Mesa Gateway Airport, American Association of Airport Executives, and the U.S. Contract Tower Association.
Sinema recently introduced the bipartisan Expedited Delivery of Airport Infrastructure Act—legislation allowing airports to use Airport Improvement Program (AIP) funds for incentive payments to contractors who finish airport construction projects ahead of schedule, improving Arizona’s aviation infrastructure, increasing efficiency in the aviation system, and saving Arizona taxpayers money.