THE AVIATION BILL approved last week by the House Public Works Committee has been labeled "the noise enhancement, safety reduction and Christmas tree act of 1979" by Rep. Elliot H. Levitas (D-Ga.), one of its opponents. The label is appropriate.
Last year, this same committee voted for a proposal that would have used federal tax revenue to help the airlines buy the equipment they need to meet existing noise standards. This year's proposal is not quite as slick. It simply exempts about 1,000 two-and three-engine commercial airliners from having to meet those standards.
That exemption means the noise level around small airports and a few large ones, most notably Washington National and LaGuardia, will be reduced substantially only when airlines get around to phasing out their existing fleets. Without the exemption, the noise reduction will come by 1984.
As bad as that part of the House committee's work is, there is worse: a provision barring the Federal Aviation Administration from putting into effect the safety programs it proposed in the aftermath of the San Diego midair collision last fall. This reaction by the committee to complaints about those programs by noncommercial airplane operators is most remarkable. The only logical interpretation of it is that the committee wants Congress, not the FAA, to assume full responsibility for safety in the air.
To compound the damage of these two provisions, the committee also voted to introduce to aviation the old pork barrel that it has filled so well in the past with highway projects. The bill it approved authorizes the spending of about $5 million on special airport projects which, in some cases, are pinpointed to specific airports that just happen to be located in the congressional districts committee members represent.
All this was too much even for Rep. Glenn M. Anderson (D-Calif.), chairman of the aviation subcommittee. He has been trying for two years to get some sort of relief for the airlines from the 1984 noise standards and produced that misguided version which failed last year. But this new bill, he said after the committee vote, "would tie the FAA's hands and leave it helpless in the face of critical noise and safety problems." This year, he is right.