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Ranking Members Sam Graves & Garret Graves Statements from Committee Markup of Aircraft Certification Reform and Accountability Act

Washington, D.C., September 30, 2020 | Justin Harclerode (202) 225-9446 | comments
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Opening remarks, as prepared, of Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Ranking Member Sam Graves (R-MO) and Subcommittee on Aviation Ranking Member Garret Graves (R-LA) from today’s legislative markup, including consideration of the Aircraft Certification Reform and Accountability Act (H.R. 8408):

Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Ranking Member Sam Graves (R-MO):

Thank you, Chairman DeFazio, for working with me to draft this bipartisan bill.

After the tragic Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines accidents, it was critical that we took the time to understand all the factors that contributed to those accidents and the resulting loss of life.  A number of expert reviews clearly identified that unfortunately, mistakes were made.

But from the beginning, I strongly believed that any potential Congressional action must be based purely on non-partisan reviews of the incidents and recommendations made by aviation safety experts.  We now have the benefit of much of that work which has confirmed that multiple contributing factors resulted in these two tragic incidents.

The fact remains that the United States can only do so much to influence factors outside our borders – including issues such as pilot training standards of other countries, or how high or low another nation sets the bar for new entrants into this rapidly growing transportation sector.

But for us, one fact has to remain constant coming out of this: the United States and the FAA must continue to be the gold standard in aviation innovation, and more importantly, aviation safety.  Our economy, our competitiveness, and hundreds of thousands of American jobs depend on that.

Plain and simple, we cannot remain the gold standard if our system isn’t safe. 

One reason for our achievements in aviation is our capacity for self-examination when it comes to safety.  We have always managed to leave partisan politics at the door and work together to fix critical safety issues to address what went wrong.  I’m proud to say that’s what happened in this case, as well.

The FAA has engaged in what was, I’m sure at some points, an uncomfortable process of self-analysis and is already making changes identified by expert reviews.  I commend FAA Administrator Steve Dickson, and Deputy Administrator Dan Elwell, for the leadership they have shown in already implementing several important improvements that have been identified by experts.  Boeing has also made necessary changes in the way it designs and manufactures aircraft.

And our Committee is here today to authorize and require additional improvements that will make our system even safer.  That’s what this bill is about.  To be clear: safety experts have concluded that we can and should improve the current system.    

This bill is a good compromise that advances our shared goal of safety, and I’m appreciative that it is based on the recommendations of safety experts.

For instance, experts on the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Special Committee, and the FAA’s Joint Authorities Technical Review (JATR), as well as experts from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) issued a number of recommendations related to pilot training, human factors, the international profile of the marketplace, and the need to ensure a proficiency in manual flying skills.

In response to these recommendations, the bill directs the FAA to independently review pilot training requirements proposed by large aircraft manufacturers, address how manufacturers represent pilot training requirements to customers, and require manufacturers to better account for realistic pilot responses to non-normal conditions when designing aircraft. 

The bill also directs a call to action on airmen certification standards, and it requires the United States government to exercise leadership in setting global standards to improve air carrier pilot training and qualifications.

This is a good, comprehensive, bipartisan bill that has methodically addressed the contributing factors involved in the two tragic accidents and the many expert recommendations to improve aviation safety within our own system.  We can only control what we can control, and we’ve done that here today with this legislation.

Subcommittee on Aviation Ranking Member Garret Graves (R-LA):

How did we get here today?  We got here because there were two crashes in October 2018 and March 2019.  We are here today because there were 346 senseless, untimely deaths that occurred.  We are here today because of the victims’ families – including Michael Stumo, the father of Samya Rose Stumo – have been relentless in pushing us and holding us accountable to do the right thing here.

We’ve had an aircraft grounding that’s lasted more than 18 months, the longest in American history.  We’ve held five hearings, which have consumed nearly half of the hearings of the Aviation Subcommittee and are more than we have ever had on a crash.  This issue has dominated the time of this committee and subcommittee, but that is appropriate because we are the gold standard for the world when it comes to aviation.

But obviously what happened here shows that our system is imperfect, and we must strive for perfection.  We need to focus on safety and the lessons learned from the tragic accidents, and not go down political rabbit holes.

We need to go where the numerous nonpartisan expert reports have led us – including the investigations by the National Transportation Safety Board, the Joint Authorities Tech Review, and the Department of Transportation Special Committee.

I’ve repeatedly said we need to extract every single lesson learned that we can from these accidents in order to improve safety, and I will say again, to strive for perfection.  I’ve also said when it comes to aviation safety, as Chairman DeFazio, Chairman Larsen, and Ranking Member Graves have said, we need to set partisan politics aside and come together.  Safety is not a partisan issue, and I am proud to say that is exactly what happened in this bill today.  I want to thank the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Committee and Subcommittee for their work on this bill.

Not only have we set partisan posturing aside, we have produced a comprehensive bill that addresses the specific recommendations of the nonpartisan expert committees, the expert safety reviews, and the many factors that contributed to these accidents.

But nothing is perfect, and I will tell you as we continue moving forward, I think we need to make sure that this bill applies to all manufacturers, and we need to make sure that while clearly the causal safety relationship was implicated numerous times by the reports and experts, we also need to make sure that we don’t set a bar that actually scares people from reporting.  We need to be very thoughtful about striking that right balance and providing the environment in which safety is paramount and there is no obstacle or threshold to cross in terms of raising safety issues within the system.

The FAA and Boeing have both taken steps to improve their system, and I do want to thank FAA Administrator Dickson and Deputy Administrator Elwell.

Let’s be clear, this bill is not the end.  There are still going to be lessons learned as we move forward, and we need to continue responding to those lessons learned and continue putting remedies and resolutions in place to ensure that this doesn’t happen again.

This bill establishes the legal framework for how we move forward based on the expert recommendations.  It addresses safety management systems, better controls over project management, and integrated project review teams to ensure that the FAA and other entities understand what’s going on in the certification process.  It requires full disclosure of safety critical information, so the FAA and the manufacturers have a common understanding of all aircraft systems. It sets new processes to ensure that aircraft are produced in compliance and performance with their type certificate and design. It also ensures renewed focus and novel design features, including milestone reviews, so it doesn’t evolve or get amended into something that looks very different than when it started. Finally, it includes the text of a bill I co-sponsored with Chairman Larsen to ensure that human factors are considered in the aircraft design.

These and other changes will set the rules for the road ahead.

Mr. Chairman, let me say it again: safety is not and should never be a partisan issue.

I want to read a message that we received from one of the family members: “My family feels indebted to all the members of the T&I committee for your work and support of this legislation being marked up Wednesday.  We thank committee members and their teams for working together to make a big difference.  Something good is going to come out of the crash that killed my family member and over 300 others.  You ignored, for this purpose, the partisanship of this campaign season to do something special.”

Mr. Chairman, I can’t say it any better than that.  I want to thank you, Chairman Larsen, and Ranking Member Graves, as well as all the members of the Committee who were involved in this process to ensure that we truly come up with a solution to the clear problem that we see before us.

Click here for more information from today’s markup.

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Tags: Aviation