Putting Rural America First in Aviation (Rep. Bruce Westerman Commentary)

July 14, 2017
by Bruce Westerman

A bill expected on the House floor as soon as next week would address years of concerns and complaints from rural America when it comes to aviation issues. The 21st Century Aviation Innovation, Reform, and Reauthorization (AIRR) Act would benefit small and rural communities through improved airport infrastructure, advanced remote tower technology, and a strengthened contract tower program. Finally AIRR would give a voice to rural and small communities on aviation issues affecting its citizens.

For too long, our aviation assets have been managed by bureaucrats in Washington with little to no input from the citizens most impacted by their top-down decisions. Nowhere is that more true than in rural America, places like the Fourth Congressional District of Arkansas which I represent in Congress. The 21st Century AIRR Act benefits these communities through local empowerment. This legislation provides rural communities a voice in aviation matters that its citizens have been denied.

The bill would also affect airport infrastructure through enhancements to the Airport Improvement Program (AIP). The AIP would receive new funding levels that would ensure grant availability for small airports in the years ahead. Grants provided through this program support construction and rehabilitation of runways, hangars, and other vital infrastructure at local air facilities. Such infrastructure is a necessity for communities which seek to expand economic development through air transportation. Simply put, jobs are created when rural airports have the funding to improve and maintain infrastructure.

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