77th Annual Meeting

MODERNIZING AMERICA'S AVIATION SYSTEM FOR THE 21ST CENTURY

WHEREAS, more than 40 mayors from cities across the nation met October 3 in Palm Beach in a working session to develop an action agenda on arts and tourism to present to the next President of the United States; and

WHEREAS, the mayors in Palm Beach drafted this national action agenda based on significant consensus on the arts and tourism challenges that cities face; and

WHEREAS, the mayors agreed that:

  • The current aviation system urgently needs reform and modernization. While dependence on oil and, in turn, high jet fuel prices, have exacerbated the troubles of the industry, longer term issues such as an aging fleet, a 1950s navigational system, insufficient R&D in alternative fuels and engines that consume less fuel, and the elimination of routes must be addressed in the pending reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

  • It is time for a significant paradigm shift in federal aviation policy, one that moves from a single mode to an intermodal approach that includes a strong complimentary rail service.

  • The airlines' financial crisis must be addressed. After finally regaining profitability in 2006 and 2007 - for the first time since 2000 - the air travel industry again finds itself in dire financial straits, with the six most established carriers (American, Continental, Delta, Northwest, United, and US Airways) losing nearly $6 billion in the second quarter of 2008, and expecting to lose more than $10 billion for the year. Fees on checked baggage and basic in-flight amenities and a 10 percent increase in airfares have not been enough to counter the historically high and volatile cost of jet fuel.

  • The volatility of the airline industry will continue to worsen without important reforms and modernization to the system.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the United States Conference of Mayors adopts as its policy the actions urgently needed to reform and modernize America's aviation system that are called for by the mayors in the National Action Forum on Arts and Tourism:

  • A new air traffic control system, such as Next Gen, which would convert the nation's radar-based aviation tracking system to one that is satellite based should be fully funded.

  • The aviation industry's dependence on oil and carbon emissions per passenger mile (air .48kg, car .35kg, rail .21kg) should be reduced by providing resources to finance research and development of alternative fuels and engines that consume less fuel.

  • Steps to inoculate our nation's metropolitan areas from the financial woes of the airline industry - for example, preservation of existing routes and flight levels - should be taken.

  • The maximum Passenger Facility Charge (PFC) cap should be raised to $7.50 per flight, the increase should be indexed to inflation, and at least $3.8 billion in Airport Improvement Program (AIP) funding, with an increase of $100 million each year thereafter, should be authorized.

  • Ensure that the proposed National Rail Plan and successor legislation to SAFETEA-LU and Vision 100 increase flexibility and streamline planning processes to encourage a more systemwide intermodal approach to transportation planning and development in order to deliver more integrated air and rail networks, whereby many short-range flights are replaced by high-speed rail (HSR) and intercity passenger rail (IPR).

  • The Essential Air Service (EAS) and Universal Service program should be fully funded.