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The House voted Monday to extend the Federal Aviation Administration’s operating authority through mid-July while Congress works on a longer aviation policy bill.
The bill was approved by voice vote. Senate action is still required. The FAA’s current operating authority is due to expire on March 31.
The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved a bill last month mostly on party lines that would set aviation policy for the next six years. The centerpiece of the bill would wrest air traffic control operations from the FAA and spin them off into a nonprofit corporation controlled by airlines and other aviation system users.
Air traffic control privatization is supported by the committee’s chairman, Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., and the airline industry. Shuster has said “transformational” change is needed in order to get the FAA’s air traffic modernization plan, which is making slow progress, back on track. But the bill has been sidelined by House leaders in the face of opposition from other powerful GOP lawmakers, who object to ceding some of Congress’ authority to a corporation, and by some segments of the aviation industry, who say they fear airlines will have too much influence over the corporation and that business and private aircraft operators will suffer.
A bipartisan Senate bill introduced last month would instead extend the FAA’s authority through Oct. 1, 2017 and doesn’t address the question of whether to privatize air traffic control. The bill’s sponsors, Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, and Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida, the committee’s senior Democrat, said they want to make important policy changes while providing time to work out the privatization question.