Senators Want More Oversight of FAA Certification Process

A pair of U.S. Senators are seeking a bill that would call for reforms on how the Federal Aviation Administration certifies new aircraft.

A draft of the bipartisan bill, written by Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Roger Wicker, a Republican, and Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell, has begun to circulate on Capitol Hill.

The bill was written as a result of the two separate, fatal Boeing 737 Max crashes that killed 346 people in 2018 and 2019.

Reuters News Service was privy to see a copy of the draft bill and noted the wording seeks to eliminate the ability of aircraft manufacturers like Boeing to unduly influence the certification process. The FAA, Wicker’s office and Boeing declined to comment on the draft bill.

As written, the bill would actually give the FAA new power over the long-standing practice of delegating some certification tasks to aircraft manufacturer itself.

The 737 MAX has been grounded for 15 months since the two crashes. What Boeing had hoped would be a smooth flight to getting the plane back in the air after identifying the cause of the crashes as a software issue has only beget more problems and issues as the re-certification process continues.

The draft bill would require reforms aimed at preventing “undue pressure… or instances of perceived regulatory coziness or other failures to maintain independence between the FAA and” Boeing employees conducting certification tasks.

It would also require regular audits and authorize $150 million over 10 years for new FAA training and to hire specialized personnel to develop technical standards for new technologies and operations.

“Congress needs to make sure aviation safety in the United States is the strongest in the world,” Cantwell said in a statement to Reuters. “Strong technical aviation expertise on the ground cannot simply be ignored by senior management at the FAA.”

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