February 18, 2011

Udall Leaves Mark on Aviation Jobs Bill

Bill Includes Airline Alcohol Training, Doña Land Exchange and Provision to Expedite New Imaging Technology

WASHINGTON - Legislation to modernize and improve the safety of the U.S. air transportation system passed the Senate last night and included three provisions by U.S. Senator Tom Udall to help airlines address inebriated and unruly passengers, increase personal privacy, and exchange land for the airport in Doña Ana County.

"This legislation will mean safer skies, more efficient travel, and improved privacy protections for air passengers," said Udall, a member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. "We've also ensured the Santa Teresa Airport in Doña Ana County has room to grow as a driving force for economic development in the region."

The FAA Reauthorization cleared the Senate 87-8. It will create or save 280,000 jobs, reduce costly and frustrating airline delay, protect the rights of passengers, and modernize the nation's air travel system.

The bill includes the following provisions inserted by Udall:

A new requirement that airlines train employees to identify and cope with inebriated or belligerent passengers. Airline personnel would be trained to make informed decisions when allowing people to board flights, when deciding whether a passenger should or should not be served alcohol, and when dealing with drunk or belligerent passengers. Udall first introduced the proposal in the House in 2006, after a drunk driving crash occurred in his district resulting in the deaths of five family members and leaving one survivor.

Increased privacy protections for airline passengers being screened with whole body scanners by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Udall's provision sets a deadline of Jan. 1, 2012, for Automatic Target Recognition software to be installed nationwide in all existing full body scan machines. The software enhances privacy by eliminating passenger-specific images and instead detects potential threat items and indicates their location on a generic outline of the individual being screened. Similar software is already being used abroad, and will be field-tested beginning this month at airports in Las Vegas, Atlanta and Washington, DC.

"Thousands of New Mexicans expressed concern to me about the revealing images these machines produce, as well as the invasive full body pat-downs that are the only alternative to those screenings. This provision will allow us to enforce airport security without sacrificing our personal privacy," Udall said.

Authorization of a land exchange that will improve access at the Santa Teresa Airport. The land exchange will enable the airport to provide a second access to the facility, specifically for general aviation. It will also improve access to the airport's fuel farm.