Senate passes FY 2023 omnibus bill, state senator pushes to close heliport, IRS issues guidance on SAF credit, and more news from HAI’s Government Affairs team.
Overview of the FY 2023 Omnibus Spending Bill
Early Tuesday morning, congressional appropriators unveiled a $1.7 trillion year-end spending package. The Senate approved the bill on Wednesday night by a vote of 68–29. The House took up the measure on Thursday.
The omnibus spending bill provides the military with $858 billion this fiscal year, funding domestic programs at more than $772 billion, including nearly $119 billion for veterans’ medical care. The spending bill also includes $45 billion in aid to Ukraine, $40 billion in disaster aid, and much more.
Highlights of the FY 2023 Omnibus Spending Bill for HAI Members
The funding package included the HAI-endorsed Advanced Aviation Infrastructure Modernization (AAIM) Act, which establishes a $25-million, 2-year pilot program that will provide planning grants for advanced air mobility (AAM) infrastructure to state, local, and tribal governments; transit agencies; port authorities; and metropolitan planning organizations. Comprehensive plans will include details on topics such as potential vertiport locations, physical and digital infrastructure requirements to support AAM operations, connectivity to existing transit systems, and strategies to connect underserved communities.
In addition to the AAIM Act, HAI’s Government Affairs team worked on several aviation-related issues that are addressed in the omnibus bill. Highlights of the provisions follow:
- Ensures AAM Stays on Schedule – Recognizes the FAA’s ongoing work on AAM and the administration’s commitment to complete the proposed SFAR by Dec. 31, 2024
- Blocks ATC Privatization – Opposes any efforts to transfer the FAA’s air traffic functions to a not-for-profit, independent, private corporation
- Supports Aviation Workforce Development Programs – Provides $10 million for the aviation maintenance workforce and $5 million for the aircraft pilot workforce
- Prioritizes Alternative Fuels for General Aviation – Directs the FAA to prioritize funding for the testing and identification of unleaded fuels that can be safely used in piston-engine aircraft
- Improves Helicopter Safety – Provides $5 million for efforts to improve helicopter safety and directs the FAA to brief Congress on an execution strategy
- Monitors 5G Interference – Directs the FAA to notify Congress immediately of any anticipated disruptions to the aviation system caused by further implementation of 5G and to work with other federal agencies and industry stakeholders to mitigate disruptions.
State Senator Pushes for Closure of NYC Heliport
On Dec. 16, 2022, Gov. Kathy Hochul vetoed New York Senate Bill 7493A, known as the “Stop the Chop” bill. The legislation would have allowed anyone to sue an operator, pilot, flight department, line-service personnel, or company employee operating in the state for alleged helicopter noise pollution, even if the flight in question was conducted in accordance with federal law and regulations.
As a result of Gov. Hochul’s veto, state senator Brad Hoylman stated that he is planning to introduce legislation that would permanently close New York City’s West 30th Street Heliport. The city council is also trying to limit helicopter flights from taking off and landing at city-owned heliports by banning sightseeing helicopters if they do not meet certain noise level requirements.
HAI remains committed to community compatibility; however, closing the West 30th Street Heliport will not solve the problem. We instead encourage vertical flight operators and their local communities to collaborate on solutions regarding sound issues through HAI’s Fly Neighborly program.
Norton Withdraws from T&I Committee Race
As Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.-04) retires this year and steps down from his role as chair of the House Transportation & Infrastructure (T&I) Committee, both Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) and Rick Larsen (D-Wash.-02) looked to fill the position. The committee oversees aviation, highways and transit, ports and water resources, railroads, economic development, and the US Coast Guard.
With Republicans taking control of the House in the 118th Congress, Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.-06) will become committee chair. Last month, Larsen wrote to members of Congress to seek their support, stating his intention to lead the Democrats as the committee’s ranking member in the 118th Congress. As a result, the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee voted (44–12) to endorse Larsen over Norton. Although the entire Democratic caucus was set to vote this week, Norton withdrew from the contest at the last minute. She had previously stressed her status as the panel’s most senior member after DeFazio; Larsen’s overwhelming support from his colleagues and the industry influenced her final decision. As she withdrew, Norton congratulated Larsen on his victory.
Larsen has helped pass multiple authorizations of crucial transportation programs and looks at the 118th Congress as an opportunity to further the implementation of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law—a long-overdue piece of legislation that will improve our nation’s outdated infrastructure. The new law looks ahead to 2050 with initiatives that support the transition to a cleaner, greener economy. Larsen also stated his intentions to advance the national conversation regarding equity in transportation.
HAI looks forward to working with Larsen, Graves, and the entire T&I Committee to find innovative solutions that will drive our industry in the right direction.
Design Criteria Issued for Archer’s eVTOL
On Mar. 30, 2022, Archer Aviation applied to the FAA for a type certificate for its Model M001 powered-lift, an eVTOL aircraft capable of carrying a pilot and four passengers. The aircraft uses 12 electric engines powered by onboard batteries for propulsion instead of conventional air-and-fuel combustion. The Archer Model M001 powered-lift is intended to be used for Part 91 and Part 135 operations, with a single pilot onboard, under visual flight rules. Since earning the FAA’s Special Airworthiness Certificate for its Maker aircraft a year ago, Archer has progressed quickly: it completed the aircraft’s first transition flight last month.
This week, the FAA took a further step by announcing proposed airworthiness criteria for Model M001. The FAA invites comments on the proposed criteria until Jan. 19, 2023.
Archer is the second company, after Joby, to achieve this milestone. The accomplishment of these two companies together is pushing the powered-lift industry forward. Both Joby and Archer expect to receive FAA certification in 2024 and launch their air taxi services in 2025.
HAI looks forward to the certification of Joby and Archer eVTOL aircraft and their safe integration into the market. Learn more or submit your comments on the proposed criteria.
IRS Issues Guidance on New SAF Credit
Early this week, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Department of Treasury issued guidance on the sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) credit, a new tax incentive created by the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022. The credit applies to a qualified fuel mixture containing sustainable aviation fuel for certain sales or uses in calendar years 2023 and 2024.
Notice 2023–06 explains eligibility requirements for the SAF credit, the various methods for claiming the credit, and the parties that must be registered for the different activities in the process. The notice also asks for public comment on various aspects of the statute, which will help the Treasury and the IRS develop additional guidance.
The SAF credit is $1.25/gallon of sustainable aviation fuel in a qualified mixture. To qualify for the credit, sustainable aviation fuel must have a minimum reduction of 50% in life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions. Claimants can qualify for a supplemental credit of 1 cent for each whole percentage point that the reduction exceeds 50%. The notice provides a safe harbor for calculating the life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions reduction percentage.
Finally, the notice explains that claimants may choose to claim the SAF credit either through the excise tax system or through a general nonrefundable business credit, which claimants must include in their income.