LaHood sets December start for satellite ATC in Gulf of Mexico

09/15/2009 | Chicago Tribune (tiered subscription model)

Airline flights between North and South America and helicopters serving offshore oil rigs will be the biggest beneficiaries of satellite-based air traffic controls due to enter service in the Gulf of Mexico in December. Transportation Secretary Lay LaHood laid out the time line during a Monday press conference, noting that satellites will allow controllers to monitor distant aircraft that are currently invisible to land-based radars. But while FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt called it "one of the biggest steps in technology our generation is going to see," the airline industry noted that many commercial aircraft won't have the necessary cockpit equipment for more than a decade. "Congress and FAA should make this program a priority by creating the necessary financial incentives for accelerated deployment," said a spokesman for the Air Transport Association.

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