Appropriations Committee Approves Key Funding Senator Collins Secured for Rural Airports

Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senator Susan Collins, the Chairman of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Subcommittee, announced today that the Appropriations Committee approved a $237 million increase for the Federal Aviation Administration as part of the fiscal year (FY) 2020 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Bill she authored.  The $17.7 billion in total funding for the agency will help to improve safety and operations at rural airports in Maine and across the country.


“In a large state like Maine, local airports are an important transportation option that help promote job creation, economic development, and access to emergency services in rural communities,” said Senator Collins.  “As the Chairman of the Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee, I secured these provisions that will allow local airports to improve their infrastructure to enhance their safety and efficiency.”


Provisions authored by Senator Collins that will benefit Maine airports include:


  • LifeFlight of Maine: The bill includes funding for the FAA to continue its work on a statewide helicopter route system allowing helicopters, such as LifeFlight of Maine, to fly in poor weather conditions under instrument flight rules.


  • Essential Air Service: The bill includes $162 million in discretionary spending combined with $150 million in mandatory “overflight fees” to support existing communities enrolled in the Essential Air Service (EAS) program.  This program was enacted to ensure that small communities that were served by certificated air carriers before airline deregulation maintain a minimal level of scheduled air service.  Maine communities that receive EAS funding include Augusta/Waterville, Bar Harbor, Presque Isle/Houlton, and Rockland.


  • Airport Improvement Program (AIP): The bill includes $3.8 billion for the Airport Improvement Program (AIP), including $450 million in supplemental AIP grants which have recently benefited airports in Rangeley, Jackman, Eastport, and Biddeford. 


  • Contract Towers: The bill includes $170 million for the Contract Tower Program, a cost-effective and efficient way to provide air traffic control services to smaller airports in Maine and across the country.  Rural airports heavily depend on this program for commercial and general aviation services, employment opportunities, and public safety. 


  • Small Community Air Service Development Program: The bill includes $10 million for the Small Community Air Service Development Program (SCASDP), which helps to address air service and airfare issues in small communities throughout the country. Several community airports in Maine have received grants from SCASDP.


  • Contract Weather Observers: The bill rejects the President’s budget request to eliminate the Contract Weather Observer (CWO) program, which proposes to turn over weather observing duties to air traffic controllers. CWO benefits Maine airports by providing operationally significant weather information and support to the entire aviation community.


Senator Collins’ legislation fully funds all air traffic control personnel, including more than 14,000 air traffic controllers, and more than 25,000 engineers, maintenance technicians, safety inspectors, and operational support personnel.


The bill also increases funding for aviation safety by $31.8 million, requiring the FAA to respond to all Inspector General and National Transportation Safety Board investigations and audits, as well as requiring the FAA to finalize its rulemaking on safety management systems for aircraft manufacturers.