The Aviation Subcommittee held a rigorous schedule of hearings this spring to examine not only the Bush administration's proposal for reauthorization of the FAA, but the state of FAA operations and our air transportation system. I said many times during that process that I believed that our current financing system could handle the transition to the next generation (NextGen) system. I also placed an emphasis on maintaining the world's safest airspace. Both of those priorities are reflected in H.R. 2881, the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2007, and we also added contracting accountability safeguards to ensure we spend this money wisely.

At the same time, we take important steps to ensure safety by restoring balance between the FAA and our air traffic controllers in current and future contract negotiations, taking them back to their prior contract for the purposes of ongoing negotiations and requiring binding arbitration when the two sides reach an impasse.

The bill also addresses the need for airlines and airports to have emergency contingency plans in place to take care of passengers that are involved in long flight delays. These plans would need to account for the provision of food, water, clean restrooms, cabin ventilation and medical care for passengers. The increasing incidence of long tarmac delays and the subsequent substandard conditions that travelers have had to endure is unacceptable, and we believe this provision will help rectify the situation.