WASHINGTON, D.C.—The U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety, and Security announces an oversight hearing on commercial airline safety.
The Aviation Subcommittee’s hearing will examine the extent to which the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the airline industry have been able to meet the requirements mandated by Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act of 2010 and other associated aviation safety issues. This hearing provides an opportunity for the Committee to receive an update on the FAA’s and the industry’s progress on achieving the safety mandates in the legislation and consider options to facilitate full implementation of the statute.
Key issues expected to be addressed at the hearing will include: pilot training initiatives, commercial airline compliance with safety requirements, and the issuance of updated rules governing pilot rest time and duty limitations.
Please note the hearing will be webcast live via the Senate Commerce Committee website. Refresh the Commerce Committee homepage 10 minutes prior to the scheduled start time to automatically begin streaming the webcast.
Individuals with disabilities who require an auxiliary aid or service, including closed captioning service for webcast hearings, should contact Collenne Wider at 202-224-5511 at least three business days in advance of the hearing date.
Chairman John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IVU.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Safety has always been the principal goal of the aviation community, and my primary focus since I joined the Commerce Committee more than 20 years ago. Every member of the aviation community begins their workday focused first and foremost on safety. For commercial airline and federal employees—from the pilots, flight attendants and the air traffic controllers, to the mechanics and the technicians, safety is paramount throughout their daily work. And this emphasis has paid off—the last U.S. fatal passenger accident was February 12, 2009. The past few years have been the safest in the history of the U.S. aviation industry. The reason we have been successful is that we are constantly striving to make even the smallest safety improvements. It is a continual effort, and that is why we are here today.
Just over three years ago, the tragic accident of Colgan Flight 3407 occurred outside of Buffalo, New York. It took the lives of 50 people, and devastated the families and friends of the victims. The investigation of Flight 3407 revealed serious safety lapses in the national air transportation system. Some of these issues were all too clear in hindsight. Pilot flight and duty time regulations had not been updated in decades, despite previous efforts to address obvious weaknesses. Other issues have developed as a result of fundamental changes in technology. The development of training requirements years ago could not account for procedures to operate “stick pushers” because they did not exist—it is still a relatively new feature and only exists on a few types of aircraft.
To address the multiple safety concerns that were highlighted in Congressional hearings, Congress passed the “Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act of 2010.” It included provisions to improve pilot training, implement Safety Management Systems (SMS), update pilot flight and duty time regulations, and promote better reporting of safety issues.
Overall, the FAA’s progress in meeting the goals of the “Safety Act” has been positive. The requirements and timeframes mandated by the legislation are ambitious and demanding, and some in the industry were concerned the agency may have been set up for failure. To the FAA’s credit, however, they have fulfilled many of the provisions mandated by the “Safety Act.” I think it is fair to say that the public has been impressed with how much the FAA has accomplished in just 17 months.
Still, much work remains to be completed by both the agency and the industry. Some critical deadlines have been missed, particularly the rulemaking on revising pilot training standards. Even with the issuance of new regulations, the FAA and the industry will have to work hard to make certain they are implemented properly. There has also been controversy regarding the cargo industry’s exemption from the new flight and duty rules that the FAA finalized in December.
I want to hear from both the FAA and the aviation industry on what they are doing to work together to resolve the remaining issues, fully implement the “Safety Act” and finish the job. Finally, I want to make sure we do not lose sight of the broader picture of aviation safety. Although I believe the implementation of the “Safety Act” is critical to improving the state of airline safety, it is part of a larger, comprehensive safety system that must be managed carefully.
In the past few years we have witnessed other safety failures in our aviation system. Issues have been identified regarding the oversight of airline maintenance, lapses by air traffic controllers, runway incursions, and operational errors. The FAA took quick action to address problems in all these areas, and Congress followed up with additional measures in the FAA reauthorization bill that recently passed. I am closely following the agency’s efforts to address these issues and their broader efforts to improve the safety of the air transportation system.
I would like to thank the witnesses for testifying today, and I look forward to hearing your perspectives on these issues.
Witness Panel 1
Ms. Margaret GilliganAssociate Administrator for Aviation SafetyFederal Aviation Administration
The Honorable Calvin L. Scovel IIIInspector GeneralU.S. Department of Transportation, Office of Inspector General
Mr. William VossPresident and CEOFlight Safety Foundation
Dr. Greg BelenkyDirector of the Sleep and Performance Research CenterWashington State University
Captain Carl KuwitzkyPresidentCoalition of Airline Pilots Associations
Mr. Thomas L. HendricksSenior Vice President of Safety, Security and OperationsAirlines for America