U.S. House committee to hold aviation safety hearing
By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A Federal Aviation Administration safety official, National Transportation Safety Board chair and head of the largest pilots union are among those who will testify on Feb. 7 before Congress.
The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee hearing "Enhancing America’s Gold Standard in Aviation Safety" comes amid growing scrutiny of the FAA after a computer outage last month led to the first nationwide groundstop since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and disrupted more than 11,000 flights.
Associate FAA Administrator for Aviation Safety David Boulter, NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy, Air Line Pilots Association President Jason Ambrosi, National Business Aviation Association CEO Ed Bolen and General Aviation Manufacturers Association CEO Pete Bunce are among the witnesses, the committee said Wednesday.
Lawmakers are considering possible reforms to the FAA ahead of a Sept. 30 deadline to reauthorize the agency.
"The FAA is running on autopilot. You can only run on autopilot so long before you run out of gas, you wake up and you're over Utah," said Representative Sam Graves, a Republican who chairs the transportation panel.
Billy Nolen, the head of aviation safety, has been acting FAA administrator since April 1 when Steve Dickson left halfway through his five-year term. The Senate Commerce Committee has yet to schedule a hearing on President Joe Biden's FAA nominee who has drawn fire from Republicans. Nolen declined to respond to Graves' criticism.
After two fatal Boeing 737 MAX crashes killed 346 people in 2018 and 2019, Congress passed sweeping legislation to reform how the FAA certifies new aircraft.
Lawmakers said in a 2020 report "the FAA failed in its oversight of Boeing and its certification of the aircraft." Last month, the FAA named two dozen experts to review Boeing’s safety management processes and safety culture.
On Friday, the FAA told lawmakers it made changes to prevent a repeat of a computer system outage that led to the Jan. 11 groundstop.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Robert Birsel)