Congress again has temporarily averted a cutoff of federal aviation funding by approving a further extension of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) programs, including the agency’s Airport Improvement Program (AIP) infrastructure grants. The action was welcome news to infrastructure advocates, but continues to delay their major goal of a multi-year comprehensive FAA bill.

The new short-term measure keepw FAA operating through Mar. 8 and succeeds a similar stopgap that was due to lapse on Dec. 31. President Joe Biden signed the new bill on Dec. 26.

Final congressional action on the stopgap came on Dec. 19, when the Senate approved the measure unanimously. The House had passed the measure on Dec. 11 by a 371-16 vote.

Besides extending funding authorizations for FAA, the measure continues FAA’s authority to collect the airline ticket charges and fuel taxes that flow into the Airport and Airway Trust Fund.

Coupled with the first short-term extension, H.R. 6503 provides the FAA with slightly more than five months of authorized funding, according to the American Association of Airport Executives. That translates into a total of approximately $1.5 billion for AIP and another $244 million for supplemental discretionary grants, AAAE says. Like the first short-term extension, the latest bill extends the so-called “high-three” provision that will allow airports to receive favorable AIP entitlements in FY24. Specifically, the language will allow AIP entitlements to be based on enplanements in calendar year 2018, 2019, or 2022—whichever is higher.

But the stopgap leaves a multi-year aviation measure still elusive.

In July, the House approved a five-year measure that would authorize $4 billion a year for AIP, a boost of 19% over the current level.

The hangup blocking a multi-year FAA bill is in the Senate. Leaders of that chamber’s commerce committee had gotten a start toward that goal in June, introducing a five-year FAA bill that would provide the same funding levels as the House-passed version.

But disputes over non-infrastructure issues, such as training requirements for pilots and expanding access to Ronald Reagan National Airport from certain cities, have stymied progress in the Senate toward a long-term FAA measure.

The Airport Consultants Council also noted that all federal appropriations are operating under a continuing resolution into early 2024—in the case of the FAA and the rest of the Dept. of Transportation, the deadline is Jan. 19. Some other agencies face a Feb. 2 endpoint.

Story updated on 1/2/2024