DOT offers 20-year plan for modernizing air transit system

The Transportation Department Wednesday unveiled its 20-year road map for modernizing the nation's air transportation system, aiming to make it more secure and built on quieter, cleaner technologies.

"After a long downturn in the demand for air transportation, travelers are returning to the system in large numbers. We must be prepared to accommodate this growing demand in the years ahead. Failure to do so will result in costly travel delays throughout the system," Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta wrote in the report.

President Bush last year signed into law the Federal Aviation Administration's $60 billion reauthorization bill, the so-called Vision 100 -- Century of Aviation Reauthorization Act. It called for the administration to deliver to Congress its plan for modernizing U.S. air transportation by 2025. The plan was written by the Homeland Security, Commerce and Defense departments, FAA, NASA and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

The plan says the demand for air transportation is outpacing the ability to increase capacity in airports and calls for development of an airport infrastructure to meet those demands. It calls for an effective "curb-to-curb" security system that will not impede mobility or civil liberties. It also recommends developing environmental safeguards that allow sustained aviation growth.

The plan calls for establishing an air traffic system with flexible spacing and sequencing of aircraft on the ground and in the air and the use of new equipment and procedures to tap underused airspace, airports and runways.

The Aerospace Industries Association of America, which represents military and civilian aircraft manufacturers, says it supports the report's recommendations on the overhaul of the air traffic control system.

"We must move vigorously to build this new system," said AIA President John Douglass.

The report reached Capitol Hill as the busy holiday travel season approaches. The Air Transport Association, which represents the nation's airliners, expects a record 37.9 million travelers between this Friday and Jan. 3.

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