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HOUSE OKS LIMITS ON SUITS AGAINST AIRPLANE MAKERS

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A bill to help aircraft manufacturers flew out of the House Monday after being pushed for years by Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah, and others.

The bill, passed on a voice vote, bans suing aircraft manufacturers for problems relating to crashes after a plane is 15 years old for piston-powered airplanes, 18 years old for turboprops and 22 years old for jets.Hansen had earlier pushed for a 15-year suit limit for all types of general aviation aircraft, but a compromise was reached to push the bill through the House Judiciary Committee - where it had been bottled up for years because some feared it would limit the rights of air-crash victims.

That committee was prodded into action after Hansen initiated a "discharge petition" to force the bill directly to the House floor. He had obtained 185 of the necessary 218 signatures when the committee agreed to a compromise.

Hansen said the bill should create jobs because many general aviation companies have quit building airplanes because they could be sued for crashes 30 or 40 years after they built an aircraft - and long after they lost control of its maintenance.

Rep. Karen Shepherd, D-Utah, another co-sponsor of the bill, noted that the number of general-aviation aircraft made in America dropped from 17,000 in 1979 to 954 in 1993 - and that cost 20,000 manufacturing jobs.

Hansen said, "This is the first real jobs bill we've passed during the Clinton's presidency, and I hope he signs it." However, House and Senate versions of the bill must first have some differences resolved.

Shepherd also praised the bill, saying, "The high cost of civil suits combined with a slew of foreign competitors who do not have the same liabilities has proved almost fatal to the general aviation industry. This legislation evens the runway."

Among companies that could benefit is Ogden's Williams International, which makes jet engines for business aircraft.