Congressional bill aims to speed FAA switch to GPS

It might not be that much longer until you can fly the friendly skies with the comfort of knowing the pilot isn't relying on technology that's several decades old. The US Senate has just passed a bill that will incite the Federal Aviation Administration to swith from antiquated raday systems to advanced GPS infrastructure within four years. The bill authorizes the spending of $63.4 billion to get this done.

The notion of switching to GPS technology is something that has been discussed for years, but bureaucratic red tape always slowed down the process. In addition, the US commercial airspace industry is massive and converting such a wide-sweeping system into something completely new is a daunting process to say the least. Nevertheless, the new bill, once set into law, will give the FAA a firm deadline of June 2015 to implement the new system at 35 of the busiest airports.

Currently, pilots and air traffic controllers rely on information that is updated every 6 to 12 seconds regarding other aircraft in the vicinity. In addition, planes are forced to make "stair-steps" in altitude as they travel from one destination to the other. But with precise GPS information, fewer planes would be diverted, planes could take off more quickly, and landing procedures would be greatly improved. West Virginia Senator Jay Rockefeller (D) called the bill "the best news that the airline industry ever had. It will take us into a new era."

[via AP]