U.S. Senate panel delays vote on aircraft certification reforms

imagePolitics12 hours ago (Sep 16, 2020 02:00PM ET)

(C) Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A Boeing 737 MAX airplane lands after a test flight at Boeing Field in Seattle

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Senate Commerce Committee on Wednesday postponed consideration of a bill to overhaul how the Federal Aviation Administration certifies new airplanes in the wake of two fatal Boeing (NYSE:BA) 737 MAX crashes.

The decision to delay the vote on the bill followed the release earlier on Wednesday of a U.S. House report that found the crashes were the “horrific culmination” of failures by Boeing Co and the FAA.

Boeing’s 737 MAX has been grounded since March 2019 following crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia that together killed 346 people and prompted investigations into the plane’s design, development and certification.

The House report called for urgent reforms to improve how planes are certified.

While the Senate committee’s proposed bill would mark the most significant effort toward adopting certification reforms, critics including families of the 737 MAX crash victims have called for more.

The 70-page bipartisan Senate bill would grant the FAA new power over the long-standing practice of delegating some tasks to aircraft manufacturer employees and create new whistleblower protections.

The bill, jointly endorsed by Senate Commerce Committee Republican Chairman Roger Wicker and the committee’s top Democrat, Maria Cantwell, would also bolster misconduct investigations and discipline management at the FAA and require a review of FAA certification expertise.

“It’s very important that we have accountability and transparency both at the FAA and at manufacturers,” Cantwell said on Wednesday.

Wicker called the delay a “setback.” With time running out, it is increasingly unlikely that Congress will approve reforms before it adjourns for the year.

The House report blamed the MAX crashes on “a series of faulty technical assumptions by Boeing’s engineers, a lack of transparency on the part of Boeing’s management, and grossly insufficient oversight by the FAA.”

Boeing has updated 737 MAX software and training to get the 737 MAX recertified to fly again before the end of the year.

Michael Stumo, whose daughter Samya died in the Ethiopian crash, said: “The FAA should immediately halt the recertification process for the 737 MAX in light of this report.”

U.S. Senate panel delays vote on aircraft certification reforms

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