Updated at 2:17 p.m. on July 22.
On Tuesday, the Senate Commerce Committee passed a $35 billion bill to reauthorize Federal Aviation Administration programs through fiscal year 2011. The bill sidestepped the politically tricky funding issue, but it would accelerate the timetable for implementing the NextGen system of satellite-based air traffic control. Provisions to improve aviation safety include creation of a national database of pilot records and requiring the FAA to use the latest research on pilot fatigue in updating its rules on flight time limits and rest requirements for flight crews.
Like the House bill, which was passed in May, the Senate Commerce bill would increase FAA inspections of foreign repair stations from once a year to twice. But it does not contain controversial House bill language that would make it easier for FedEx workers to unionize. Nor does it include provisions that would make it harder for airlines to form international alliances with other carriers or that would allow airports to increase passenger facility fees. However, it does contain "passenger bill of rights" requirements that passengers be allowed to deplane after tarmac delays of more than three hours.
What do you think of the bill, and how does it compare with the House bill? Does it increase the likelihood that Congress will act quickly, as Commerce Chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., urged, to update FAA programs?