It’s official. Last week President Barak Obama signed legislation requiring the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to switch from radar to GPS technology. The accuracy provided by GPS technology is unbeatable, especially when compared with the decades-old radar system. The bill met some opposition from union groups, but ultimately was signed into law. The primary purpose of the legislation is to modernize air traffic control in the U.S., in order to improve safety and also reduce costs for the aviation industry and passengers alike.
“This critical effort to shift from our antiquated air traffic control technology to a GPS-based system will improve air traffic efficiency and safety, reduce fuel burn and pollution from aircraft, and bring costs down for consumers,” said Rep. John Mica (R-FL), the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman. No one can contest the importance of improving air traffic safety. The bill also called for new rules dictating union organizing elections for railroads and airlines, which was not met well by the Teamsters, Machinists, Flight Attendants, and Communications Workers.
Despite some bumps in the road, including a two-week shut down of the FAA, while the bill was awaiting approval in the Senate, the plans for modernization are now law. Under this legislation, the FAA is entitled to $63.4 billion over the next four years, $11 billion of which is to be used to implement the air traffic system with GPS technology. The FAA has until June of 2015 to establish new arrival procedures for the 35 busiest airports in the U.S.
“This new technology will help reduce delays, give controllers better tools with which to perform their jobs even more efficiently and provide a platform for further technological and safety enhancements,” said Paul Rinaldi, president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association. The FAA is also required to find a way to permit unmanned drone aircrafts to share airspace with cargo planes, airliners, private aircraft, and business jets by the end of September 2015.