Wed, Apr 30, 2008
Provision Addresses FAA Inspector Concerns
We're getting details now on the
final form of the Senate's FAA reauthorization
bill, which is expected to come to a full Senate vote
by week's end. Like many federal bills, several additions have been
tacked on as it proceeds through the sausage factory.
Dow Jones reports one provision would mandate a two-year wait
before departing FAA inspectors could represent the airlines they
oversaw in dealings with the FAA.
The aviation trust fund would be fed by higher taxes on fuel used
by general aviation aircraft, and the FAA would get the formal
go-ahead for next-gen air traffic control.
In further addressing an inspector-to-airline relationship
criticized as "too cozy," the bill would require more than one
inspector to sign off on any deal in which an airline voluntarily
discloses a maintenance discrepancy in exchange for leniency. A new
tracking system would watch for maintenance deadlines not met by
While it doesn't contain a full-on passengers bill of rights,
Senate Bill 1300 does make important progress on the issue. The
bill would require airlines to provide the DOT with contingency
plans for providing food, water and clean restrooms to passengers
during lengthy tarmac delays.
Of course, we've all heard that before... but what's new is an
amendment by Senator Barbara Boxer of California, which would
empower the Department of Transportation to accept, reject, or
request revisions to those plans. Until now, DOT has ducked any
enforcement responsibility, and the airlines have put forth only
voluntary measures they later ignored.
It's not clear whether the new arrangement would give DOT any
real teeth, or whether DOT would actually embrace its new role.
If S.1300 passes, it will face a fairly straightforward
reconciliation with its counterpart in the House of
Representatives. Its chances of a signature from President Bush are
less certain, however... as it was the Bush administration which
originally proposed funding the aviation trust fund in part with
user fees on general aviation.
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