Ranking Members Sam Graves & Garret Graves Statements from Aircraft Safety Hearing with FAA Administrator Steve Dickson
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 hearing entitled, “Three Years After Lion Air 610: FAA Implementation of the 2020 Aircraft Certification, Safety, and Accountability Act”:
Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Ranking Member Sam Graves (R-MO):
Thank you, Chair Larsen, and thank you to Administrator Dickson for being here today.
I want to commend you for a job well done under difficult circumstances over the past several years.
Both industry and labor groups have praised your leadership on a number of issues, everything from aviation safety to dealing with disruptive passengers. We’ve seen that praise and again I say thank you.
I am looking forward to hearing how the FAA is doing when it comes to implementing the bipartisan certification reform law that passed last Congress.
The development and drafting of that law is a model of how we can work together and how bipartisan cooperation can yield positive results for the American people.
The law directs the FAA to implement the many non-partisan expert recommendations developed in the wake of the Boeing 737 MAX accidents.
It also includes several provisions I championed relating to pilot training and improving manual flying skills – an important priority in improving aviation safety.
Less than a year has passed since the law’s enactment, but the urgency of the changes required demand that Congress keep a close eye on the FAA’s progress.
This hearing is also a good opportunity to hear from you on other FAA initiatives and policies.
There are a number of concerning issues related to general aviation safety that I am going to be looking for some answers on.
Specifically, I would like you to address the FAA’s recent changes to longstanding flight training guidance that has created a lot of confusion and a lot of concern in the pilot community.
These changes could have a negative impact on safety and create an unnecessary paperwork burden on both instructors and the FAA. So, I hope you will take some time today to address these pressing safety issues.
And while we’re on the topic of pilots, I want to again make very clear my strong opposition to the sweeping, indiscriminate vaccine mandates that this Administration is pushing on commercial airlines.
After Congress joined together in a bipartisan way to provide $30 billion dollars to help save aviation jobs during the pandemic and keep these vital workers on the job, it is insulting that these same workers are being told that if they don’t get the vaccine they are going to be fired.
They had no problem asking pilots, flight attendants, and other frontline aviation employees to continue working through the pandemic when there was no vaccine.
Indeed, we have seen studies, including one by the Department of Defense, have shown that the airplane environment presents a low risk of COVID transmission.
But despite this we are now seeing the heavy- handed tactics of this Administration to coerce businesses into implementing an indiscriminate vaccine mandate while there’s already a shortage of workers to fill these aviation jobs in the first place.
In fact, prior to the pandemic we were staring down a very serious aviation worker and pilot shortage.
So, with returning demand I do not expect that the problem has magically gone away.
We should not be treating our pilots and other airline workers any differently than we did in 2020. We want them to be safe. But this mandate is not about their safety it’s about politics. It’s plain and simple.
With that, I want to thank you for being here today, Administrator Dickson, and I look forward to your testimony. I yield back.
Subcommittee on Aviation Ranking Member Garret Graves (R-LA):
Thank you Mr. Chairman, first I want to thank you for holding this hearing and secondly, and importantly, I want to join you in thanking the families for their relentless efforts to ensure that we never forget what happened in our pursuit of perfection. This hearing is an opportunity for us to talk about what has happened since the awful crashes of the 737 Max. It’s an opportunity for us to talk about what progress has been made on the 2018 authorization bill and the progress that has been made on Aircraft Certification, Safety, and Accountability Act (“Aircraft Certification Act”) that we worked together on.
Mr. Chairman, this is all about assessing the accidents and determining the lessons learned. This is about making reforms, both administratively and in the law, and this is about us holding folks accountable. In that first one, as you well know, there have been dozens of assessments, reports, and technical groups that have been pulled together including the National Transportation Safety Board to extract every lesson learned that could possibly be extracted. It’s about ensuring that the FAA, using their administrative authorities, that they step up and make changes to their policies and in an effort to ensure that we do not allow anything like what happened with the Max to ever occur again. It’s ensuring that those that perhaps did break the law that they are held accountable, and I want to highlight that there was an indictment just last week showing that this was not an entirely an administrative failure – that there were folks who actually broke the law and they are being held accountable.
Mr. Chairman, it’s important for us to continue working together to not establish but to maintain the gold standard that the FAA has in terms of global aviation safety and maintain, not establish, but to maintain the fact that traveling by air is still the safest means of transportation.
Mr. Chairman, I noted earlier that we did the 2018 authorization bill and that bill still has dozens of provisions that are yet to be implemented. The Aircraft Certification Safety and Credibility Act that we worked on last year still has 35 provisions that must be implemented.
Mr. Chairman, it is critical that we today learn from the FAA what steps have been taken in the implementation of the 2018 act and the act we worked on in December of last year. It is important that we learn from the FAA, that we hear from the FAA how all of the steps that occurred with the Max will never occur again as a result of some of the reforms that have been made both internally and made through the law changes that we implemented in December of 2020.
I look forward to hearing from Administrator Dickson.
I still think we have some significant work to do over the coming months and we must continue to strive for perfection.