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Variations on the “State of Aviation Safety”

The House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee’s Subcommittee on Aviation held a hearing on July 17 to examine the “State of Aviation Safety.” The session provided a venue not only for family members impacted by the loss of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 but also a number of special interests seeking to advance a broad range of “safety” reforms.

The tear-jerking testimony given by Mr. Paul Njoroge – who lost his wife, three children and mother-in-law on Flight 302 – alleged significant safety flaws in the industry and provided an avenue for other organizations to interject a variety of other concerns unrelated to the incident.

Rep. Garret Graves mentioned the progress made in aviation safety by highlighting a 95 percent reduction in aviation accidents since 1997. The Congressman said the industry experiences only one death per 3 million flights but cautioned all to continue pursuing lessons learned to prevent future incidents.

During the hearing, specific concerns relevant to the Ethiopian incident involved aircraft software as it relates to design approval and the notice process for known errors. The processes of modifying existing type designs and the FAA’s design approval methods were scrutinized, challenging what would merit the need for an entirely new type certificate. With the investigation ongoing, it was clear Congress will continue to look closely at the FAA’s role in oversight of safety and certification and where failure occurred in the process.

Another issue raised was how the industry publishes errors later discovered in design. Testimony pointed to known errors in Boeing’s Maneuvering Characteristic Augmentation System (MCAS) software. This sparked calls to require manufacturers to publish newly discovered errors in manuals as soon as possible, which would do little to advance safety in the industry if the FAA continues to inconsistently enforce manual standards.

Piggybacking on the main focus of the hearing, various organizations testified on topics such as international pilot standards, flight attendant issues, seat size in relation to safety, toxic fume detection, integration of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and even risks with lithium batteries on aircraft. Members discussed the risk associated with the recent government shutdown, its impacts on the FAA and safety, and efforts to pass the Aviation Funding Stability Act of 2019 to prevent future interruption of FAA services.

The Transport Workers Union (TWU) didn’t hesitate to seize the opportunity to bash FAA-certificated foreign repair stations. Though the hearing focused on safety concerns in manufacturer design and handling of errors, the TWU attempted to steer the conversation to maintenance, alleging potential safety risks involved with servicing U.S. registered aircraft at foreign repair stations. Complaints accused the FAA of applying inconsistent standards overseas, particularly related to announced inspections and non-required drug testing or background checks.

A reoccurring theme of the hearing was the impossibility of the FAA to provide the required amount oversight and safety inspections needed to ensure compliance across the industry. The Professional Aviation Safety Specialists (PASS) mentioned the FAA relies on designees to perform 90% of safety oversight. While TWU criticized a lack of foreign oversight, PASS noted limitations of FAA review of domestic maintenance providers – a theme echoed by long-time foe of contract maintenance Reb. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.).

As hearings and the investigation continue, the ramifications of the Ethiopian crash will resonate throughout the industry. ARSA members and allies must continue to lead the world in aviation safety while preventing knee-jerk, reckless action that collaterally punishes all corners of the industry.

For additional information and an in-depth look into what transpired at the Hearing, click here.

ARSA continues to represent its members and advocate for sensible improvements in aviation regulation. To view an issue paper recently circulated by the association related to international regulatory issues, click here.

2/28/17 - House Aviation Subcommittee Talks Certification, Workforce in First Hearing

February 28, 2017

The House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee’s Subcommittee on Aviation held its first hearing of the 115th Congress on Feb. 15, to discuss the “State of American Aviation Manufacturing.”  The hearing was the first in the ongoing series “Building a 21st Century Infrastructure for America,” focusing on FAA reauthorization and reform and the modernization of America’s aviation system.  

The witnesses included FAA Aviation Safety Office leadership as well as industry representatives from Pratt and Whitney, Boeing and Textron Aviation. Certification process reform dominated the hearing and testimony, with both the agency and industry strongly supporting the part 23 rewrite and expansion of the organizational designation authorization (ODA) process.

The subcommittee’s membership expressed a strong bipartisan desire to reform and streamline the certification process. Promoting aviation workforce development was also raised by several members, with witnesses voicing strong support for government-industry-educational institution partnerships, particularly those with community colleges aimed at expanding America’s skilled trade workforce.

Among other topics discussed were the extension of bilateral certification agreements and the ongoing implementation of the Next-Gen program.

“As the aviation industry expands its international reach, and introduces new technologies and innovations, it is critical that the FAA certification and regulatory process adapt and respond.” Subcommittee chairman Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.), said in a statement. “The FAA must leverage the expertise of the private sector and fully utilize all the authorities it has been granted.”

To see everything that happened during the hearing, click here.

Stay tuned to ARSA as the House continues to work on improving the American aviation system. For more information on T&I’s continuing series of hearings, visit

7/28/14 - Challenges Heard at Aviation Subcommittee

July 28, 2017

On July 23, the House Aviation Subcommittee held a hearing titled “Domestic Aviation Manufacturing: Challenges and Opportunities” to discuss the various governmental issues plaguing the aviation industry.

The subcommittee heard testimony from the following witnesses from the government and industry:

Panel I

Panel II

The hearing focused on various issues affecting the aviation community. The first panel spotlighted the current state of FAA reforms from the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012. Margaret “Peggy” Gilligan faced strong criticism on the FAA’s slow implementation of certification process initiatives. The US Government Accountability Office (GAO) discovered that the FAA has only completed one initiative, leaving 10 on schedule, 2 predicted not to meet a planned milestone, and one at risk of getting off track. Dr. Gerald Dillingham of GAO further concluded that only 5 of the 14 initiatives have even been acted on. Dillingham indicated the process to shift the culture of the FAA to a risk-based approach is indeed underway, a claim questioned by some subcommittee members including Congressman Bill Shuster (R-PA).

Representative Dina Titus (D-NV) also questioned Gilligan, inquiring about the timeline for the hot-button unmanned aircraft regulations. Gilligan informed the panel that the executive review is ongoing and the final product should be published by the end of the year. Titus stressed to Gilligan and the panel that she hoped the regulations would be uniformly enforced across the country. Many Representatives had earlier pointed out regional irregularity is a problem facing aviation members and that local FAA practices are incongruous across the country.

In the second panel, Joe Brown of Hartzell Propeller, Inc. emphasized the role of the United States in global aviation and voiced his own frustrations with the inconsistencies of the Organization Designation Authorization (ODA) program. Brown was not alone in voicing his displeasures in the state of the industry, General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) President and CEO Pete Bunce criticized the lack of predictability and large backlog of work within Flight Safety as well as waste caused by inefficiencies of Bilateral Aviation Safety Agreements (BASAs) with partnering countries.

UAS integration and FAA certification processes were not the only challenges addressed, the subcommittee also discussed the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank, educational training for the workforce, bonus depreciation, and R&D tax credits. To catch up on the details and to view the entirety of the hearing, click here.

7/21/14 - Aviation Committee to Hold Manufacturing Hearing

July 21, 2014

On July 23 at 10 am, the U.S. House of Representatives’ Aviation Subcommittee will hold a hearing titled, ‘Domestic Aviation Manufacturing: Challenges and Opportunities.’ It will be broadcast online here.

Witnesses representing government and industry will include:

Panel I

  • Ms. Peggy Gilligan, Associate Administrator for Aviation Safety, Federal Aviation Administration
  • Dr. Gerald Dillingham, Director of Civil Aviation Issues, Government Accountability Office

Panel II

  • Ms. Marion Blakey, President and CEO, Aerospace Industries Association
  • Mr. Pete Bunce, President and CEO, General Aviation Manufacturers Association
  • Mr. Joe Brown, President, Hartzell Propeller Inc.
  • Mr. Dave Cox, Lead Administrator, Air Washington Project

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