The AATF was established in 1970; it is a fund set up to finance the Financial Aviation Administration's (FAA) investments in the airport and airway system, such as construction and safety improvements at airports and technological upgrades to the air traffic control system, additionally financing operations such as providing air traffic control and conducting safety inspections.
Its revenues are generated from aviation-related excise taxes on passengers, cargo, and fuel. The excise taxes are levied on domestic passenger tickets, domestic flight segments, international passenger arrivals and departures, and on purchases of air travel miles for frequent flyers and similar plans. Additionally, taxes are imposed on air cargo waybills and aviation fuel purchases. The largest source of excise tax revenues is generated from the transportation of passengers.
Revenues deposited in the Trust Fund are subject to congressional appropriations and included in the federal budget.
The AATF has been the primary funding source for federal aviation programs since 1972. In order to avoid any anomalies, both the authority to collect aviation excise taxes and to spend from the trust fund are reauthorized periodically by Congress.