WASHINGTON — The Senate on Wednesday authorized $15.6 billion for the nation's airports and air traffic control system, a measure aimed at easing congestion in the skies that is expected to only get worse.
The legislation would guide federal spending over the next three years for improving airports and modernizing aircraft-tracking equipment. It would also help pay the government's 15,400 air traffic controllers, its 1,900 aircraft inspectors and other workers.
"There's a lot of frustration with what's going on in relation to lateness of flights and luggage not arriving on time," said Sen. Wendell H. Ford (D-Ky.), chairman of the Senate aviation subcommittee. "But the important thing is you as a flying passenger arrive at your destination safely."
The measure passed by a vote of 96 to 1.
The nation's airlines carried 278 million passengers in 1978, the year the government stopped regulating service by the carriers. Without federal control over rates and routes, the number of passengers has increased to an estimated 450 million this year, and is projected by the Federal Aviation Administration to increase by 4.5% annually and reach 700 million by 1998.