A senior Honeywell International Inc. executive said it could be another year or more before contracts start emerging from a multi-billion dollar effort to modernize the U.S. air control systems.

The diversified aerospace and manufacturing group said it is well placed to win business as Congress nears agreement on a long-term funding bill for the Federal Aviation Administration.

The absence of an FAA bill after years of Congressional wrangling has stymied efforts to convert the U.S. from an aged radar-based system for overseeing flights to one using satellites, a move that is seen easing congestion and cutting costs.

“The technology is available now,” said Honeywell Chief Financial Officer Dave Anderson in an interview, though he didn’t expect any contract awards until 2013 or 2014.

His comments came as Honeywell reported a fourth quarter loss weighed by an annual pension accounting charge, though Mr. Anderson said the bulk of its European business was relatively insulated from an expected recession in the first half.

Honeywell also produces building control and safety products, and though planning for tough economic conditions, expects to outperform its end markets thanks to a long-cycle backlog of almost $16 billion and strong commercial aerospace aftermarket business.

The company reported a loss of $310 million in the fourth quarter compared with a year-ago profit of $369 million. The per-share loss of 40 cents compared with a year-earlier profit of 47 cents a share. Excluding pension mark-to-market adjustments, earnings of $1.05 beat expectations by a penny and compared with 87 cents a year earlier.

Honeywell affirmed its 2012 guidance for earnings between $4.25 and $4.50, which Mr. Anderson described as “appropriate” given economic uncertainty rather than conservative.

Its automation and control-systems business, which serves the commercial construction industry, saw net sales rise 3.5% in the final quarter. The aerospace unit’s net sales improved 7.8%.

After what executives called a weak U.S. heating season because of mild weather, they expect normalized business for its air conditioning units during the “cooling season”.