WASHINGTON — The Senate on Monday passed a four-year, $63 billion compromise bill to renew and extend federal aviation programs through 2015, speeding the modernization of the air traffic control system toward the era of satellite navigation.
The Democratic-controlled Senate voted 75-20 to pass the measure, despite objections from labor unions because it tightens requirements for forming new unions. The House approved the measure Friday on a 248-169 vote. President Barack Obama is expected to sign it into law.
The Federal Aviation Administration's authorization expired in 2007. Since then, the agency has limped along on 23 stopgap measures as lawmakers wrangled over the role of the federal government in aviation.
"This agreement is going to provide a lot of stability to the FAA," said Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, the Democratic chairman of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. "They will be happy about that."
The bill provides about $16 billion a year for airport construction and expansion and for an increase in the use of pilotless drones in domestic airspace, among other items.
It will also speed the agency's transition to Global Positioning System satellite navigation technology, called NextGen, that is meant to allow pilots to know exactly where other planes and obstacles are, facilitating more frequent landings and takeoffs, and fewer delays and diversions.