Chairman Rockefeller Introduces Legislation to Improve Air Safety, Modernize Nation's Air Traffic Control System

January 28, 2011

Chairman RockefellerWASHINGTON, D.C.—Senator John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV, Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation has introduced the FAA Air Transportation Modernization and Safety Improvement Act. It is the same bill that passed the U.S. Senate last year, 93-0.

“This is a significant FAA package that will support thousands of jobs, strengthen airline safety and modernize America’s outdated air traffic control system. It will lead to a better aviation system for all Americans,” Chairman Rockefeller said. “Our aviation system is fundamental to our communities and our nation’s long-term economic growth. I am committed to getting this bill to the President’s desk this year.”


The FAA Air Transportation Modernization and Safety Improvement Act would:

  • Require the FAA to develop a plan to provide runway incursion information to pilots in the cockpit, and initiate better processes for tracking and investigating operational errors.

  • Require better safety oversight of foreign repair stations.

  • Improve safety for helicopter emergency medical service operations by mandating that the FAA standardize dispatch procedures, and requiring the use of terrain awareness and warning systems, and flight data and cockpit voice recorders on board such helicopters.
  • Strengthen the inspection of airline operations.


The FAA Air Transportation Modernization and Safety Improvement Act includes several provisions to modernize the nation’s air transportation system, and to ensure that the FAA adopts the next generation of air traffic control technology in a timely and effective manner. The bill would:

  • Establish clear deadlines for the adoption of existing Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) navigation and surveillance technology. For example, the bill requires the development of Required Navigation Performance (RNP) and Area Navigation (RNAV) procedures at the busiest 35 airports by 2014, and for the entire National Airspace System (NAS) by 2018. 
  • Direct the FAA to accelerate planned timelines for integrating Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) technology into the NAS.
  • Create an “Air Traffic Control Modernization Oversight Board” to provide better oversight of FAA’s modernization programs. 

  • Establish a “Chief NextGen Officer” position at FAA to oversee implementation of all NextGen programs, and provide greater accountability over the modernization process. 


Chairman Rockefeller included key provisions in the bill to strengthen the federal government’s commitment to small community air service. The FAA Air Transportation Modernization and Safety Improvement Act would:

  • Propose a number of improvements to the Essential Air Service (EAS) program to allow communities greater flexibility in attracting desired air service, including: (1) permitting new financial incentives into contracts with EAS carriers to encourage better service; (2) allowing longer-term EAS contracts if such an arrangement is in the public interest; (3) allowing the development of incentives for large airlines to code-share on service to small communities; and (4) requiring large airlines to code-share on EAS flights in up to 10 communities.
  • Establish an Office of Rural Aviation within the Department of Transportation (DOT) to focus on the development of longer-term EAS contracts.
  • Extend a provision that raises the federal share for certain small airport improvement projects to 95 percent.