Washington | The House passed an aviation bill aimed at boosting airport security, reducing screening lines and refunding fees to passengers whose luggage is lost or arrives late. The bill also extends the Federal Aviation Administration’s programs for 14 months at current funding levels. It was approved by a voice vote. The Senate is expected to vote later this week.
Action is required by Friday, the day the FAA’s current operating authority expires, to avoid a partial shutdown of the agency. House and Senate lawmakers had reached an agreement last week clearing the way for passage after Rep.
Bill Shuster, R-Pa., chairman of the House transportation committee, agreed to temporarily drop his effort to remove air traffic control operations from the FAA and place them under the control of a private, nonprofit corporation.
The plan ran into opposition from other powerful committee chairmen opposed to ceding Congress’ authority over aviation matters to a corporation. Segments of the aviation industry that feared a corporate board would be dominated by large airlines also opposed the plan.
The aviation bill will provide stability to the nation’s aviation system, and includes limited but critical and time-sensitive provisions to improve aviation safety and security, Shuster said yesterday. The bill authorises a doubling of Transportation Security Administration teams that stop and search suspicious passengers in airport public areas that are outside the security perimeter, often using bomb-sniffing dogs.
The provision responds to airport attacks in Brussels and Istanbul this year. The bill would toughen the security clearance for airport employees who have access to secure areas, expand random employee inspections and require reviews of perimeter security. That is a response in part to the insider threat problem raised by the destruction last year of a Russian Metrojet airliner over Egypt. Investigators suspect a bomb was smuggled aboard.
A separate bill also passed by the House requires the TSA to update a national risk assessment of airports within 90 days, conduct more frequent risk assessments of airport access points and perimeter security, and to develop better perimeter security strategies.