House and Senate conferees yesterday approved a revised legislative package that would ease federal aircraft noise abatement standards for two-engine jet airplanes.
The conference was reopened after Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Howard W. Cannon (D-Nev.) met with Transportation Secretary Neil Goldschmidt to work out a compromise measure that might assure President Carter's signature. Goldschmidt had warned that he would recommend from the conference last week, and James T. McIntyre Jr., director of the Office of Management and Budget, had also complained of some of its funding sections.
The agreed-on measure cuts back on the break given to the regional airlines that use the smaller jet planes but still represents "an improvement in existing noise regulations," Cannon said yesterday. Under the existing Federal Aviation Administration regulations, airlines are required to alter or replace two-engine and three-engine jets to meet the standards by Jan. 1, 1983, and four-engine jets by Jan. 1, 1985.
Under the bill approved yesterday: Two-engine jets with 100 seats or fewer are exempted from the standards until Jan. 1, 1988, unless they are sold after Jan. 1, 1983. If sold, the new owner must comply with the regulations.
Two-engine jets with more than 100 seats are exempt until Jan. 1, 1985, unless they are sold after Jan. 1, 1983.
Airlines will be able to use any two-engine jets with more than 100 seats until Jan. 1, 1986, if they have on order quiet new planes with the latest fuel-saving technology to replace them. The new planes have to be delivered by that cut-off.
The bill that was approved a week ago would have exempted from the 1983 standards entirely all 450 two-engine jets now in service. Proponents of the waiver -- the strongest of whom was Cannon -- argued that small towns would suffer a loss of air service if the airlines were compelled to meet the standards. Many would put the planes on the ground rather than go through the costly process of altering them to meet the standards, proponents argued.
Cannon wanted to ease the standards even more because of his view that altering the planes -- it's called retrofitting in the industry -- would not make them perceptibly quieter to persons on the ground.
"This compromise certainly does not represent my ideal solution to the problems we've tried to address in (this bill)," Cannon told the conference yesterday. "But I do recommend it as acceptable, considering the extreme differences of opinion on the regulations."