NATCA presented the 2006 Sentinel of Safety award to Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., for his continued dedication and commitment to the aviation industry. He retired from the Senate in 2000 after 18 years of service, but returned in 2002 to once again serve. The Union bestows the annual award to a member of the aviation community as a way of honoring the individual for his or her outstanding achievement in the advancement of aviation safety.
Lautenberg has made aviation safety a priority and has fought for what was right for all users of the aviation system - whether it was air traffic controllers, the flying public, and even pets. His leadership in the aviation community is evident through the multiple pieces of legislation he has authored, programs he created, and hearings he requested.
Throughout Lautenberg’s career, he tirelessly supported NATCA and worked on behalf of its membership. No matter how small or large the request, the senator and his staff have always exceeded the union’s expectations. It is extremely difficult to sufficiently summarize Lautenberg’s career long dedication to aviation safety on one page because his list of accomplishments is lengthy and his results are impressive.
Highlights of Lautenberg’s contributions to aviation include:
- Wrote the Lautenberg runway safety law, which holds FAA to a deadline to improve runway safety areas at over 280 commercial airports. The Lautenberg measure which signed into law by President Bush on Nov. 30, 2005, requires all major U.S. airports to bring their runways up to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) runway safety area standards, which are designed to help prevent accidents like the one that occurred in Chicago's Midway Airport in December 2005.
- Authored legislation in 2003 to prevent the privatization of the U.S. air traffic control system, which led to a landmark Senate vote against the Bush privatization plan. When majority party leaders dropped the legislation from the FAA bill in conference, Senator Lautenberg led the filibuster of this $60 billion legislation package for six months.
- On Jan. 28, 2004, Sen. Lautenberg called on the Senate Committee for Commerce, Science, and Transportation to hold hearings on the Bush Administration proposal to slash funding for the nation’s air traffic control system while calling for a tripling of U.S. air traffic space. Sen. Lautenberg also sent letters regarding this issue to Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta and FAA Administrator Marion Blakey.
- Wrote the Pets on Planes law to improve air carriers’ handling of animals aboard airlines.
- Authored the legislation that banned smoking on airlines.
- Created a new FAA program to help preserve small airports by allowing creative funding mechanisms for states.