Cantwell, Moran, Klobuchar, and Capito Introduce Legislation to Enhance Aviation Safety Through FAA and Global Aviation Partnerships

Legislation would increase funding for FAA international technical assistance programs, enable U.S. to work with ICAO to raise international standards

June 17, 2020

WASHINGTON, D.C. –U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, and Senators Jerry Moran (R-KS); Amy Klobuchar (D-MN); and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) introduced legislation this week to authorize the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to work with other countries to strengthen pilot training standards and enable the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to further enhance worldwide aviation safety and training standards.

The Foreign Civil Aviation Authority Assistance Act of 2020 authorizes $10 million a year for Fiscal Years 2021-2026 for the FAA to provide technical assistance to civil aviation authorities around the world to improve pilot training in critical areas like automation and human-machine interface. This authorization would more than double the funding available to the FAA to provide these capacity building programs. It also authorizes up to $2 million a year for Fiscal Years 2021-2026 to help establish a working group at ICAO – a specialized agency of the United Nations based in Montreal, Canada, that sets international civil aviation requirements and standards – on raising international pilot training standards.

“This legislation will enable the FAA to help strengthen pilot training in other countries.” Ranking Member Cantwell said. “This new work on pilot training standards at the International Civil Aviation Organization will raise the safety bar across the globe.”

“Multiple reports regarding the 737 MAX accidents highlighted concerns about the human-machine interface in the cockpit,” said Senator Moran. “This bipartisan legislation would provide resources to help establish the International Civil Aviation Organization’s working group created to implement recommendations on human-machine interface and advance our aviation safety. In addition, this legislation would allow for increased engagement by the FAA to promote collaboration and data sharing on an international level. We must continue to advance aviation safety in a holistic manner and ensure tragic accidents like the 737 MAX in Ethiopia and Indonesia do not happen again. I look forward to our continued work on this important issue and encourage my colleagues to support this legislation to improve aviation safety.”

“Following the tragic airplane crashes of the Boeing 737 Max in Indonesia and Ethiopia and the subsequent investigations, we must ensure that international pilot training requirements meet the highest standards to help prevent similar tragedies in the future,” Senator Klobuchar said. “The Foreign Civil Aviation Authority Assistance andCapacity-Building Act will help improve international pilot training and enhance the safety of foreign air transportation systems by helping the U.S. work with our international partners to develop important safety standards for the aviation workforce and industry.” 

“Since the tragic accidents of Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, Congress has held—and continues to hold—hearings examining what occurred and how we can make sure such incidents do not happen again. One of the concerns in the wake of these recent crashes has been the usage of automation in the cockpit and pilot training on those systems. Our legislation builds upon the work the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has been doing with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the in-country technical assistance the FAA provides to other countries to improve aviation safety,” Senator Capito said.

Investing in pilot training is essential for safety as the aviation industry continues to grow. According to projections, once the industry recovers from the COVID-19 crisis, world passenger and aircraft traffic may grow by more than 4 percent over the next few decades, resulting in a need for roughly 550,000 new pilots over that time frame. 

Senator Cantwell has been a consistent advocate of the need to increase technical training for pilots. This month, she introduced the Aircraft Safety and Certification Reform Act of 2020 with Chairman Roger Wicker, which would implement provisions to improve aviation safety following the Boeing 737 Max crashes. In October 2019, she introduced legislation to address challenges related to increased automation in commercial aircraft cockpits, as well as how pilots respond to flight deck alerts and uncommanded flight control inputs. Later that month, she questioned NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt on the topic, and in January 2020, she introduced bipartisan legislation to create one-year paid aerospace policy fellowship roles for graduate and post-graduate students in Congress, at the FAA, and in other federal agencies for students who have expertise in any field related to aerospace, from human factors to software engineering.

A full copy of the bill can be found HERE.