US senators have introduced a bill to Congress intended to reinforce safety and oversight, particularly with regards to certification, in the aftermath of the Boeing 737 Max grounding crisis.
The proposed legislation, titled the Restoring Aviation Accountability act, has been submitted by Democratic senators Richard Blumenthal, Tom Udall and Edward Markey – all members of a Senate transportation committee.
Udall says the measure will reverse provisions which have allowed “self-certification” in the aviation industry, addressing a “substantial weakness” in the US FAA certification process.
He says the bill has support from the US Air Line Pilots Association, the Association of Flight Attendants, and other industry groups.
Part of the proposal specifically requires implementation of recommendations from a joint technical review of the 737 Max flight-control system.
But it would demand, more broadly, establishment of a commission to review the FAA safety delegation programme, to evaluate whether alternative certification schemes would provide more robust oversight.
“The American people expect the FAA to be tough, independent and uncompromising when it comes to their safety,” Udall says. “This new bill would restore integrity in the FAA’s certification process while restoring the flying public’s faith in American aviation.”
The bill states that an independent type certificate review panel would also be set up, comprising 18 members – among them four FAA safety inspectors and three pilots responsible for airline training standards, plus maintenance, crew and manufacturer representatives.
US-built aircraft would be prohibited from being sold to foreign airlines unless the state concerned is compliant with ICAO standards, as determined by international safety assessment programmes.
The FAA would require manufacturers to submit information as to whether aircraft are being sold to domestic or foreign operators, including the potential need for additional training materials – including those for operations, maintenance, and simulation.
Granting of exemptions for use of non-motion training devices to replace full-motion simulators for validation and qualification would be prohibited, the bill adds. It also introduces additional “whistleblower” protection.
“This bill is a safety-first measure that makes a number of improvements in the aviation system, including aircraft certification, delegated authority and the oversight of the FAA’s certification process,” says Air Line Pilots Association, International, president Joe DePete.
Association of Flight Attendants-CWA international president Sara Nelson adds that the type certification process “needs serious correction”, stating: “It is critical to establish a commission to recommend a transition from the [organisation designation authorisation] programme.”