Senate Bill Sets 2018 Target For NextGen

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A bipartisan committee of senators has introduced an FAA reauthorization bill that sets 2018 as the deadline for GPS-based air traffic control through the whole National Airspace System. The bill was introduced by leading transportation and security committee chairs and will go to the Senate Commerce Committee for discussion before hitting the floor of the Senate. In addition to the clear direction to speed up the so-called NextGen program, the Senate bill addresses some near-term high-profile concerns, including enhancing helicopter emergency medical services (HEMS), safety inspections of regional airlines and more scrutiny of airline pilots' flight tests and reviews.

The bill also tackles an issue that's filled the inboxes of aviation and mainstream media outlets for several years. The senators are proposing that airlines be forced to allow passengers to get off planes that have been delayed more than three hours. A spate of uncomfortable delays lasting up to eight hours a couple of years ago spawned a grassroots movement to end the practice of keeping pax bottled up in the aircraft during delays.