After five years of legislative struggling, 23 stopgap measures and a two-week shutdown of the Federal Aviation Administration, Congress finally has passed a bill aimed at prodding the nation's 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 Monday, 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.
Final approval of the measure was marked by an unusual degree of bipartisan support despite labor opposition to a deal cut between the Democratic-controlled Senate and the Republican-controlled House on rules governing union organizing elections at airlines and railroads. The House had passed the bill last week, and it now goes to President Barack Obama for his signature.
The bill authorizes $63.4 billion for the FAA over four years, including about $11 billion 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.
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Source of this article is the Chicago Tribune.