Udall has pressed for new safety measures, accountability following Boeing 737 Max 8 Jet crashes, SW Airlines engine explosion that resulted in death of NM constituent
WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M) met with the nominee to serve as administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Stephen Dickson, in advance of his nomination hearing to discuss the need for stronger oversight and action on aviation safety – particularly engine safety – and FAA’s airworthiness certification process. Udall issued the following statement after meeting: “In light of recent tragedies involving air travel, it is clear that we need strong leadership at the FAA, as well as dedicated oversight from Congress on aviation safety, to ensure all travelers are safe. That’s why I am pressing Mr. Dickson to commit to following through on the ‘Call to Action’ on engine safety that was included in last year’s FAA Reauthorization Act. While air travel in the United States continues to have a strong overall safety record, I remain concerned about the clearance process for not just the Max 8 but other jet models that were approved under the same process,” said Udall. “The American public and all air travelers deserve assurances from the FAA and airplane manufacturers that they are doing all they can to protect travelers and prevent future accidents. The safety of travelers is in industry’s long-term interest, but too often short-term economic incentives become too powerful, and that’s why we cannot stand by and continue to allow important regulatory agencies to get too cozy with the industries that they oversee.”
On March 14, 2019, Udall and Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) repeated their 2018 call for a Senate hearing on aviation and safety issues with the FAA following the two fatal crashes involving Boeing 737 Max 8 jets. Udall initially called for a hearing on aviation safety last year after safety issues with CFM56 engines caused a mid-air explosion on a Southwest Airlines flight, which resulted in the tragic death of a New Mexico constituent, Jennifer Riordan – the first U.S. passenger fatality since 2009. The Senate Commerce Committee subsequently held its first aviation safety hearing in many years on March 27, 2018.
Currently, the FAA’s certification process allows for a significant amount of work to be outsourced to airplane manufacturers themselves, with little oversight from FAA employees. While the Department of Transportation’s Inspector General is auditing the certification process for the 737 Max 8 jet in the wake of two fatal crashes that occurred in the past year, this does not guarantee that necessary changes will be made to the current structure of the certification process.