Washington, US: The transformation of the nation’s air traffic system by replacing World War II-era radars with 21st century GPS technology would be accelerated under a bill approved by the Senate. The USD 34.5 billion bill funds the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) through Sept. 30, 2011. It also addresses a series of safety concerns raised by the crash of a regional airliner last year near Buffalo, New York, that killed 50 people.
The centrepiece of the bill calls for key elements of the FAA’s NextGen programme to be in place at the busiest American airports by 2014. The system won’t be fully in place for non-commercial aircraft until after 2020. The nation’s antiquated air traffic control system is a major source of airline delays.
The system is crucial to handling the expected growth in air traffic from about 700 million passengers in 2009 to the more than 1 billion annually by 2023. “The United States lags behind other nations in making the transition to the new technology,” said Senator Jay Rockefeller, a key sponsor of the bill.
The bill, passed by a 93-0 vote, contains a provision authorising the FAA to make grants to airlines to help cover equipment costs. Some airline executives have said that as much as they want the new system, they can’t afford to put it in their planes.