How should Congress modernize the Federal Aviation Administration?; Legislation Aims to Cut Congestion

Senators Rockefeller, Lott explain their position

The AIM Act also rejects an administration proposal that would have made it financially harder for regional airports to make much-needed facilities improvements. Earlier this year, the Bush administration had proposed reducing funding for Airport Improvement Programs. For many airports, AIP funding is crucial to building new runways or terminals. Not only does the AIM Act restore AIP funding, but it grants airports greater flexibility on how best to spend those funds. Our bill continues the AIP cost-sharing formula - 95 percent federal and 5 percent local match - for airport projects.

What shouldn't get lost in all of this talk about runways, air traffic control systems and surcharges is the human element of air travel. The U.S. aviation system is the safest in the world, but we have to stay vigilant when it comes to aviation safety. The AIM Act includes a number of provisions that will improve safety by providing the FAA with resources to maintain the necessary level of oversight of air carriers and foreign repair stations and upgrade the existing safety infrastructure at our airports.

For instance, the industry would be required to provide their passengers with information on on-time arrivals and flights that are chronically delayed. Carriers would have to make this information available to passengers either on their Web site or at the time of purchase of tickets. Airlines also would be required to develop a system by which passengers will be able to deplane aircraft after a predetermined threshold is met.

The air-traveling public will benefit from other provisions, including an FAA study on aircraft cabin air quality, expedited rulemaking regarding fuel-tank flammability, and a National Academy of Sciences study into pilot and flight attendant fatigue to help in evaluating flight-time limitations and rest requirements.

In the end, we must modernize air traffic control systems and build new runways to keep commerce and people moving everywhere. We've worked together to develop a proposal that is fair to everyone, requires users to pay their fair share and keeps us headed in a bipartisan direction so that our aviation system remains the safest in the world.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and Senate Minority Whip Trent Lott (R-Miss.) are chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety and Security.

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