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Key Findings

More than 2,300 people have been killed from ice buildup on aircraft, problems on runways, faulty aircraft maintenance and repairs and overtired pilots, despite dozens of NTSB recommendations to address those problems.
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Resistance in the Cockpit
Repairing Planes on the Cheap
Pilots – the Next Generation
No Way To Know
Legislating Safety

Airline Safety Act Targets

Long-standing Issues

In early August, President Barack Obama signed one aviation-related bill into law, and while it could have a substantial impact, another bill promising sweeping changes to U.S. aviation still awaits final action.

Spurred by the recent Colgan Air crash near Buffalo, N.Y., in early 2009, Congress passed the Airline Safety and FAA Extension Act of 2010, and President Obama signed it into law on Aug 1. Among other things, the bill mandates increased pilot training for poor weather and icing conditions; an electronic database that pulls together medical check-up data, training and other information on individual pilots; and limits on the amount of time pilots fly and work in an effort to combat pilot fatigue – one of the main contributing causes in plane crashes.

However, the more sweeping FAA Air Transportation Modernization and Safety Improvement Act, known also as the FAA reauthorization bill, has yet to clear all congressional hurdles.

The bill includes language on the so-called “NextGen” plan, which promises to put the U.S. on the cutting edge of aviation technology. The reauthorization bill sits in conference between the House and Senate where the two bodies hope to reconcile the differences between their respective versions, House aviation subcommittee spokesman Jim Berard told News21.

“There’s a high degree of confidence that it’ll get done by the end of September,” Berard said.

Here’s a look at some key elements within the FAA reauthorization bill that still await final congressional approval:

• Implement a rule that requires all aircraft be equipped with tracking equipment similar to that of a GPS in a car. The proposed technology would allow pilots and controllers to see — in real-time — critical data about other aircraft such as position, altitude, speed and heading.

• Evaluate and implement new technology for preventing runway incursions that would use a combination of radar and sensors to not only detect aircraft position but also surface vehicles, such as baggage cars and emergency vehicles.

• Establish a rule that all emergency services aircraft, such as medevac helicopters, be equipped with terrain-awareness systems.

• Establish an inspection program for foreign repair stations that would include drug and alcohol testing and twice-yearly inspections.

• Prohibit the use of personal electronic devices, such as laptops, by pilots on the flight deck during flight for purposes unrelated to business.

The bill also addresses FAA funding and employment levels as well as environmental impacts of aviation and consumer and whistleblower protections.

Sept. 26, 2010

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