Certification Reform Bill Awaiting Senate Attention
The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee will meet Sept. 16 in executive session to mark up several bills. The session was intended to include legislation aimed at overhauling FAA’s aircraft certification process, but the committee pulled it from the list on the morning of the meeting.
The Aircraft Safety and Certification Reform Act of 2020 (S. 3969) is meant to address problems identified during the investigation of the Boeing MAX accidents. Significantly, the bill’s lead sponsors are Commerce Committee Chairman Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Ranking Member Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.). Given the bipartisan support from the most senior members of the committee, the bill is expected to pass through the committee easily.
As introduced, S. 3969 would require companies that hold both a type and a production certificate to implement safety management systems, require the FAA to approve members of organization designation authorization (ODA) units, more carefully consider human factors issues related to pilot and aircraft interfaces and emphasize ODA best practices. The bill would also require the FAA to establish a confidential reporting program for FAA employees who have safety concerns and an FAA Office of Continuing Education to provide training to FAA personnel involved in aircraft and flight standards certification.
ARSA and its allies at the Aviation Technician Education Council and Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association have been encouraging lawmakers to add a provision to the bill directing the FAA to replace the current regulation governing technician schools (14 CFR part 147) with a performance-based standard. The regulation has not been updated since the 1970s and is woefully out of date, particularly with reference to its curriculum and course delivery requirements. Whether a member of the Commerce Committee will offer such an amendment is yet unknown.
To watch a webcast of the markup, go to www.commerce.senate.gov/2020/9/executive-session.