Passenger rights, airport fees and air traffic control salaries were all on the agenda as Congress opened debate on reauthorizing the Federal Aviation Administration yesterday afternoon. On the first day of hearings, lawmakers agreed that urgent passage was necessary, rather than another temporary extension of funding. Ranking minority member Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., said it was "incomprehensible" that the bill did not pass in the last Congress. Air Transport Association President and CEO James May testified, restating the organization's position that commercial aviation contributes a disproportionate amount of system costs. Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Calif., urged his fellow lawmakers to mandate caps on tarmac delays, while Jim Elwood, chairman of the American Association of Airport Executives, testified in support of hiking passenger facility charges from $4.50 to $7. Meanwhile, some Republicans griped about a provision from Rep. James Oberstar, D-Minn., that would help air traffic controllers reopen a 2006 contract. Other witnesses at the hearing testified on issues related to aviation safety, equipage, maintenance facility oversight and the business aviation community, to name a few.
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