By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The leaders of the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure on Monday introduced bipartisan legislation to reform the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) aircraft certification process in the wake of two fatal Boeing 737 MAX crashes.
The Boeing 737 MAX has been grounded since March 2019 after two crashes in five months killed 346 people. Boeing did not immediately comment.
The committee is set to vote on Wednesday on the proposed legislation that would require U.S. aircraft manufacturers to adopt safety management systems and requires an expert review panel to evaluate Boeing’s safety culture and make recommendations for improvements.
The proposal, which has the backing of committee chair Peter DeFazio, a Democrat, and the top Republican Sam Graves would also require manufacturers to complete system safety assessments for significant design changes, ensure risk calculations are based on realistic assumptions of pilot response time, and share risk assessments with the FAA.
DeFazio said Congress can “meaningfully address the gaps in the regulatory system for certifying aircraft and adopt critical reforms that will improve public safety and ensure accountability at all levels going forward.”
The prospects for winning approval for the legislation this year remain unclear. On Sept. 16, the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee postponed consideration of a separate bill to overhaul FAA aircraft certification.
The same day, House Transportation committee Democrats issued a report that found the 737 MAX crashes were the “horrific culmination” of failures by Boeing and the FAA and called for urgent reforms.
The House bill would extend airline whistleblower protections to U.S. manufacturing employees, require FAA approval of new workers performing delegated certification tasks for the agency and impose civil penalties against those who interfere with performance of FAA-authorized duties.
FAA Administrator Steve Dickson will conduct an evaluation flight at the controls of a 737 MAX on Wednesday, a key milestone as the U.S. planemaker works to win approval to resume flights.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Sandra Maler and Richard Pullin)