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Extension OK'd to seek FAA bill compromise

The House on Tuesday gave itself another month to come up with a compromise with the Senate on a huge aviation measure that includes safety provisions stemming from the crash of Continental Connection Flight 3407 in Clarence 16 months ago.

By voice vote, the House approved a one-month extension of legislation funding the Federal Aviation Administration's operations until Aug. 1, and the Senate is expected to do the same within days.

"We have made extremely good progress and are near completion of a final bill," said Rep. James L. Oberstar, the Minnesota Democrat who is chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. "Based on the hard work that has occurred to date, I am extremely hopeful that Congress will complete action on the long-term FAA reauthorization act in July."

The current FAA legislation is set to expire July 3, and the Families of Continental Flight 3407 had made a big push to complete a major FAA overhaul, including the safety reforms, by that date.

But as has been expected since last week, lingering disagreements between the two houses forced the House to give itself more time to resolve those issues with the Senate.

"We're always concerned when we see an extension, but a 30-day extension gives us much more hope" than a longer one would, said Karen Eckert, one of the key members of the families group, which has made more than 20 trips to D.C. to lobby for the safety provisions.

"We've heard they're working very hard on resolving their differences," with the pace of negotiations picking up in the past week, said Eckert, who lost her sister, 9/1 1 activist Beverly Eckert, in the crash in Clarence.

While there are some differences between the House and Senate air safety provisions, the key outstanding issues involve other matters.

The House is pushing a provision making it easier for FedEx mechanics and drivers to unionize, which is absent from the Senate bill. In addition, the two houses differ on antitrust exemptions for airline "alliances" and on rules overseeing foreign aircraft repair stations.

e-mail: jzremski@buffnews.com

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