DOT, airlines join to pressure Congress

The Transportation Department and airline industry stakeholders announced

this week that they will work together to pressure Congress for funding

to finish modernizing the air traffic control system on schedule.

Facing many immediate problems with flight delays and cancellations,

DOT met this week with all the top members of the airline industry. While

coming up with some short-term solutions, the department also stressed its

focus on long-term fixes, including the traffic control system modernization

and initiatives such as the Free Flight program.

"We also have to be about the business of continuing to take forth the

vision of the need to modernize the air traffic control system and to take

that to the Congress, to the American people, so that we can expedite our

commitment and our work in that regard," DOT Secretary Rodney Slater said.

Free Flight Phase One is scheduled to be completed in 2002. It is a

key modernization effort that will provide a new network of communications

systems, on-board computers and global positioning satellites to allow pilots

to choose the best route based on current conditions.

Phase Two, which Federal Aviation Administration chief Jane Garvey announced

in May, will enable air traffic controllers to determine better routes.

It will also include a redesign of the national airspace and start work

on a set of research and development projects.

All of this will require that DOT and the FAA get the funding they have

expected.

The airlines, pilots, air traffic controllers, and many others will

all benefit from these modernizations, and so must be committed to working

with DOT, said Duane Woerth, president of the Air Line Pilots Association.

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