The 68th North Dakota Legislative Assembly has concluded its biennial session, and I want to express my appreciation to everyone who participated in hearings or provided written testimony on aviation-related legislation. The biennial North Dakota Aeronautics Commission (NDAC) budget has been approved for the period of July 1, 2023 to June 30, 2025, which includes additional state funding availability for airport infrastructure enhancements and aviation education grant opportunities. The budget also continues support for the “Operation Prairie Dog” airport infrastructure fund, with the caveat that the state’s oil revenues must be sufficient during the upcoming biennium.
Our airport planning team is reviewing grant applications for airport projects, and their funding recommendations will be presented to the Aeronautics Commissioners at the Annual Airport Grant Meeting on June 15, 2023. This grant round provides an opportunity for the NDAC to allocate funds from the airport infrastructure fund established through the “Operation Prairie Dog” legislation, passed in 2019. This funding is critical for matching federal funds and implementing high-priority airport projects throughout the state.
With state funding levels determined for the next two years, additional attention is now needed at the federal level. The future of aviation in the United States depends on the passage of a long-term Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization bill that determines funding levels and operating authority for the FAA while addressing critical aviation issues. The last such bill was approved in 2018 and provided five years of funding for the FAA to operate through September 30, 2023. The 2018 FAA Reauthorization bill was praised for ending a period of multiple short-term extensions which provided uncertainty and instability for the aviation industry. We are hoping that Congress will prioritize the passing of a long-term FAA Reauthorization bill which will provide the FAA with the necessary resources that are required to maintain and modernize our aviation system.
The National Association of State Aviation Officials (NASAO) has been working with the states and national aviation industry groups to identify several priorities for FAA Reauthorization. These priorities include increasing investment in the Airport Improvement Program (AIP), modernizing the Non-Primary Entitlement (NPE) Program, and supporting a regulatory framework for advanced air mobility and unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). Additionally, it is essential to improve the timeliness of the FAA’s issuance of AIP grants, identify solutions to address the aviation workforce shortage, and ensure that air service opportunities are available to small communities.
As a member of NASAO, the NDAC has been advocating for the priorities that should be considered in FAA Reauthorization. Recently, I traveled to Washington D.C. to discuss these priorities with other state aviation directors, North Dakota’s congressional offices, and staff members from both the House and Senate subcommittees that are drafting language for FAA Reauthorization.
As the expiration date of the current FAA Reauthorization approaches, it is important that aviation users engage with their federal representatives and industry groups to advocate on behalf of their issues and priorities. By participating in these conversations, we can help shape policies and funding levels that promote safety, efficiency, and innovation in the aviation industry. Let’s take this opportunity to make a positive difference for the future of aviation.
Kyle Wanner, Director
North Dakota Aeronautics Commission
701-328-9650 | email@example.com