Senator Collins Leads Hearing Pressing Top FAA Leadership for Answers

“We must prevent such an accident from ever happening again”

Senator Collins also obtains answers on safety at Presque Isle airport following March accident and secures commitment to address Portland Jetport noise

 

Click HERE to read Senator Collins’ opening remarks.

Click HERE to watch Senator Collins’ opening remarks.  Click HERE to download high-resolution video.

Click HERE to watch Senator Collins’ Q&A with Mr. Bahrami.  Click HERE to download high-resolution video.

 

Washington, D.C.—In a continuation of her leadership in holding the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) accountable following recent 737-MAX crashes that killed 346 people, U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) convened a hearing today to examine the FAA’s role in certifying the Boeing aircraft. 

 

Senator Collins, the Chairman of the Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee, sought answers to how these tragedies occurred and explored what steps can be taken to enhance safety going forward.  She also pressed FAA officials to describe steps they are taking to increase safety at the Presque Isle airport following an accident in March and secured a commitment that the FAA will help the Portland Jetport address the noise problem affecting some residents of South Portland.

 

“Over the last year, much needed attention has been focused on the crashes of Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Air Flight 302, and serious questions have been raised about the effectiveness of FAA’s regulatory framework.  The families and friends of the 346 people who lost their lives deserve answers,” said Senator Collins.  “I know that the FAA is committed to finding out exactly what happened with the 737-MAX and making sure that we have procedures, staff, and resources in place to try to prevent such an accident from ever happening again.”

 

Last weekend, a New York Times report revealed several troubling instances where the FAA overruled its own safety engineers in deference to Boeing.  Today, a Wall Street Journal article uncovered that the FAA allowed the 737-MAX to continue to fly after the Lion Air crash while Boeing worked on a fix despite an internal risk analysis that found that it “didn’t take that much” for a malfunction to occur.

 

Senator Collins questioned Ali Bahrami, Associate Administrator for Aviation Safety at the FAA who previously led the agency’s Seattle office that oversees Boeing, on why the FAA seemed to prioritize Boeing’s production timeline rather than safety. 

 

“In the past, when FAA has found that an aircraft poses an unacceptably high safety risk, it has mandated equipment changes, inspections, or training.  But in this case, what FAA appears to have done is simply to issue a reminder to pilots on how to respond to a MCAS malfunction and FAA gave Boeing many months to fix the underlying issue,” said Senator Collins.  “What troubles me about this is if the agency’s own analysis found MCAS to be an unacceptable risk, why did the FAA not take immediate action to address those risks?”

 

Mr. Bahrami told the Subcommittee that safety is his number one priority and said, “In my view, the process was followed.  I would definitely look forward to all of these different reviews that are being conducted for them to take a look at it again to see if it could have done anything differently or if there are areas that there are shortcomings in.”

 

Senator Collins and Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Transportation Inspector General to request an audit of the certification of the Boeing 737-MAX aircraft earlier this year. 

 

Today’s hearing provided crucial insight to the Subcommittee ahead of its markup of the Fiscal Year 2020 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies appropriations bill later this year.

 

In addition to Mr. Bahrami, other top FAA career officials who testified included:

 

·         Carl Burleson, Acting Deputy Administrator of the FAA;

 

·         Winsome Lenfert, Deputy Associate Administrator for Airports; and

 

·         Angela Stubblefield, Deputy Administrator for Security and Hazardous Materials.

 

Click HERE to read their testimonies.

 

The FAA is a $17 billion agency with 44,000 employees who are responsible for virtually every aspect of aviation in our country, including the safety of commercial airlines, general aviation, and cargo aircraft.  Every day, FAA’s air traffic controllers are responsible for more than 44,000 flights and 2.7 million airline passengers across more than 29 million square miles of airspace.