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Public Statements

FAA Reauthorization Act of 2007

Location: Washington, DC

FAA REAUTHORIZATION ACT OF 2007 -- (House of Representatives - September 20, 2007)


Mr. UDALL of Colorado. Mr. Chairman, I rise in support of H.R. 2881 and urge its approval.

The version of H.R. 2881 that is before us today is the product of a constructive, bipartisan collaboration between the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the Science and Technology Committee.

I want to express my appreciation for the fine work done by the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee members and staff, and in particular Chairman Jim Oberstar and Ranking Member John Mica, along with the Chairman of the Aviation Subcommittee (and senior member of the Science and Technology Committee), Jerry Costello, and Ranking Minority member Tom Petri. I appreciate the cooperative efforts that made this merged bill possible.

I also want to thank Chairman Bart Gordon, Ranking Member Ralph Hall, and my good friend and Ranking Member on the space and aeronautics subcommittee, Representative Tom Feeney, for all of their hard work on H.R. 2698, the Federal Aviation R&D Reauthorization Act of 2007--which was unanimously passed by the Science and Technology Committee earlier this year and which has now been incorporated into the bill we are considering today.

The Science and Technology Committee majority and minority staff has done great work on this bill and I would like to thank them

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as well, especially Richard Obermann, Ed Feddeman, Tim Athan, and John Piazza for their hard work. I am pleased that H.R. 2881 will reauthorize a range of important R&D activities at the FAA--including R&D related to aviation noise and emissions reduction--establish new R&D initiatives in some key areas, and include provisions aimed at strengthening the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) initiative and the interagency Joint Planning and Development Office (JPDO), which has the responsibility for planning and developing NextGen.

Because of my limited time, I would like to highlight just two of the new initiatives in the bill that I think are especially important.

First, the bill establishes an interagency research program to better understand the impact of aviation on climate change. This is a serious matter, with both economic and quality-of-life implications, and thus I believe that this research effort is critically important.

Second, the bill establishes a multi-agency research program to conduct research on the impacts of space weather on aviation and air passengers. This is motivated by the increased importance of space weather to aviation, especially with the increased incidence of flight operations over the polar regions.

Mr. Chairman, while I could spend all my time discussing the important provisions from H.R. 2698 that have been included in H.R. 2881, I would be remiss if I did not discuss several other features of the bill that I think are important. It is clear, I think, that enhancing the Nation's aviation needs while addressing unique challenges of individual communities is not an easy task. I believe that this bill moves our Nation's air transportation system forward while being understanding of the obstacles that face each state and locality.

In June, the Department of Transportation (DOT) reported that only 72.5 percent of domestic flights by the largest U.S. airlines arrived on-time from January to April of this year. This is the worst showing since DOT began reporting on-time performance in 1995. Robust investment in aviation infrastructure is crucial to increase air capacity and decrease fight delays. I am pleased that this bill provides for increased funding for a number of FAA capital programs, including the Airport Improvement Program (AIP).

Passage of this legislation is vital to the health of the Nation's air transportation system and the continued economic vitality of Colorado. I am especially pleased that the bill designates a program within FAA to improve safety and efficiency of radar coverage in mountainous areas. While the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) and the FAA have already begun such an endeavor, this bill will further cement and provide funding for enhanced radar coverage at mountain airports in Colorado and elsewhere. Not only will this program increase safety but it will also provide multi-modal benefits by reducing congestion on highways due to flight diversions or denied service.

Mr. Chairman, it is no exaggeration to say that the Nation's air transportation system is critical to our economic well-being, our international competitiveness, and our quality of life. I believe that H.R. 2881 will help maintain its continued vitality and safety, and I urge Members to support the bill.


Mr. UDALL of New Mexico. Mr. Chairman, I appreciate the gentleman's yielding to me and appreciate his hard work in the committee.

Mr. Chairman, I rise today to offer a commonsense amendment that will better ensure the safety of our Nation's citizens, both in the air and on the ground.

In my district last November, in a situation that is unfortunately still far too common, a drunk driving accident resulted in the deaths of a mother, a father and three children. Left behind in Las Vegas, New Mexico, is one sole-surviving child. The family of six was on their way home from a soccer match when their minivan was struck by a drunk driver speeding down the wrong side of the interstate.

As the investigation unfolded, we learned that only a few hours earlier, the drunk driver was already visibly intoxicated on an airline flight to New Mexico. While other passengers noticed that the man appeared to be intoxicated, he was served more alcohol on board the flight. Just 2 hours after deplaning with a blood alcohol content four times the legal limit, the man took to the highway, killing this family and himself.

In the aftermath of this horrible tragedy, I learned that Federal regulations prohibit an intoxicated person both from boarding a plane, as well as drinking during a flight. However, the airlines are not required to train their flight attendants on how to identify intoxicated passengers. In order to help prevent a problem from occurring, those in charge must first be able to identify the warning signs. Adequate training to identify and deal with intoxicated passengers is critical to ensuring attendants make informed decisions when serving alcohol.

My amendment works to ensure airline personnel receive this training. It requires airline carriers to provide gate and flight attendants with alcohol-server training to help them recognize intoxicated persons. As New Mexico's Attorney General, I helped implement this training in the service industry, because research shows this knowledge is critical to combating the problem. Training would occur annually and would also provide situational training on how to handle inebriated individuals who are belligerent.

The intention of my amendment is to prevent drunk driving, but it does much more. While inebriated passengers pose a danger once they deplane and drive, they also pose a danger during flight. It is no secret that when too much alcohol is involved, tempers are more likely to flare, individuals are more likely to behave inappropriately, and decision-making skills are drastically impaired. For all of these reactions to alcohol, flight attendants must have training on how to handle those people. It is a commonsense approach for the safety of all people in flight.

Unfortunately, my amendment cannot prohibit all tragic drunk driving accidents from occurring, but it will implement a system to make it more difficult for passengers over the legal limit from boarding planes, deplaning and driving home. Training to identify intoxicated passengers is critical to ensuring that the attendants make informed decisions when allowing people to board a flight and when deciding whether to serve them alcohol.


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