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Fiscal year 2009 will be a critical year for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), with the pending selection of a new Administrator, the beginning of the 5-year term of the new Chief Operating Officer, and the continuing process of transforming the nation's current air traffic control system to the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen)--a complicated effort to modernize the air traffic control system. In addition, FAA is currently operating under a temporary reauthorization. Without legislative action, both the excise taxes that fund the Airport and Airway Trust Fund (Trust Fund) and FAA's authority to spend from the Trust Fund will expire at the end of this month. This statement is based on recent reports and discussions with selected senior FAA officials and representatives of aviation industry and stakeholder groups. This statement provides GAO's preliminary observations on some key aspects of the President's proposed budget for FAA for fiscal year 2009, and identifies some of the current and future challenges facing FAA and the Congress.

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