Finally the FAA is back on track

Victoria
By Victoria February 7, 2012 17:33

Finally the FAA is back on track


After five years of no secure funding, 23 stopgap measures and a two-week shutdown, the Federal Aviation Administration is to be correctly funded. US Congress has finally has passed a bill aimed at putting the US aviation system into a new high-tech era in which satellites are central to air traffic control and piloted planes share the skies with unmanned drones.

 

The bill, which passed the Senate 75-20 yesterday speeds the nation’s switch from radar to an air traffic control system based on GPS technology. It also requires the FAA to open U.S. skies to drone flights within four years. This may be the reason for a speedy resolution at this attempt. Final approval of the measure now goes to President Barack Obama for his signature.

 

The bill authorizes $63.4bn for the FAA over four years, including about $11bn toward the air traffic system and its modernization. It accelerates the modernization program by setting a deadline of June 2015 for the FAA to develop new arrival procedures at the nation’s 35 busiest airports so planes can land using the more-precise GPS navigation.

 

Instead of time-consuming, fuel-burning, stair-step descents, planes will be able to glide in more steeply with their engines idling. Planes will also be able to land and take off closer together and more frequently, even in poor weather, because pilots will know the precise location of other aircraft and obstacles on the ground. Fewer planes will be diverted.

Eventually, FAA officials want the airline industry and other aircraft operators to install onboard satellite technology that updates the location of planes every second instead of radar’s every six to 12 seconds. That would enable pilots to tell not only the location of their plane, but other planes equipped with the new technology as well — something they can’t do now.

 

The system is central to the FAA’s plans for accommodating a forecast 50% growth in air traffic over the next decade. Most other nations already have adopted satellite-based technology for guiding planes, or are heading in that direction, but the FAA has moved cautiously.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said the bill “will provide the stability and predictability to ensure critical aviation safety programs and infrastructure investments move forward.”

 

The underlying military aspects of the bill: The FAA is also required to provide military, commercial and privately-owned drones with expanded access to US airspace currently reserved for manned aircraft by 30th September 2015. Within nine months of the bill’s passage, the FAA is required to submit a plan on how to safely provide drones with expanded access.

 

The bill also limits air service subsidies to the approximately 150 communities that already receive subsidized service. And it would trim about a dozen communities from the program after a year if they are within 175 miles of a hub airport and average less than 10 passengers a day, at a saving of about $20 million a year. House Republicans initially had proposed eliminating the entire $200 million-a-year program except for subsidized service in Alaska and Hawaii.

Victoria
By Victoria February 7, 2012 17:33
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