A Tennessee congressman is complaining about airport grants because of what he sees as inequitable rewards, while other GA businesses were left out entirely by the CARES Act.
The bailouts are a small part of the CARES Act, approved recently by Congress and signed into law by President Trump. A total of $10 billion of the funding was set aside for airports. While general aviation sometimes gets left in the lurch when it comes to assistance, in some cases, the little guys came out ahead compared to neighboring international airports. The formula, according to the FAA, allots funds based on their category, that is, whether they’re classified as National, Regional or Local airports, or Basic or off the radar completely.
The congressman, Steve Cohen (D, TN), complained to the FAA that Memphis International, which sits firmly in his home district, got stiffed by the funding formula the FAA uses while Knoxville’s McGhee Tyson, home to Cirrus Aircraft, got what Cohen saw as a generous bailout package. Politico’s Morning Transportation Newsletter reported on the story and quoted Cohen as saying that the FAA’s formula was “arbitrary.” The FAA responded to Politico MT, stressing that the formula is based on quantifiable data. Recipients and their allocations are determined by that formula.
When it comes to FBOs, it’s even more complicated. The National Air Transportation Association (NATA), which lobbies for FBOs, charter providers and others, says it went to bat for these airport businesses as CARES was being put together and succeeded in getting some tax relief for charter companies. However, its president, Timothy Obbits, admitted that many GA businesses were largely left out of the CARES act, which was a failure of the authors to recognize that aviation businesses, NATA said in a release, are a “lynchpin in our nation’s response to the coronavirus” and will play “a critical part in the recovery of the national airspace system,” claims that pilots who fly for transportation and recreation know to be true.
GA businesses, like FBOs and charter companies, as well as other support and suppliers, were hoping for relief from coronavirus-related business impacts through small business packages. However, as has been widely reported, the application process for that relief was chaotic and the funding was quickly exhausted, prompting Congress to pass additional coronavirus relief bills. The process has been subject to vigorous debate, and future funding looks uncertain at this point.