Wicker Introduces Aviation Safety Bill

June 2, 2020

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, today introduced the Aircraft Safety Improvement Act of 2020, which would improve aviation safety by codifying recommendations from a number of reviews and investigations related to the 737 MAX crashes. The legislation would mandate adoption of Safety Management Systems (SMS) for manufacturers, require the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to review its assumptions regarding pilot reaction time, and ensure a representative sample of pilots from around the world participate in flight testing. The bill would also reform the FAA’s certification processes to eliminate instances of undue pressure or “regulatory coziness” that could lead to lapses in safety protocols. 

“After reviewing the evidence from incident reports, soliciting recommendations from aviation experts, speaking to witnesses and stakeholders, and holding a series of hearings on aviation safety, I am introducing a bill that would take important steps to improve passenger aircraft regulations and safety.”

The Aircraft Safety Improvement Act would:

  • Mandate SMS for large aircraft and engine manufacturers. SMSs provide systematic approaches to safety policy, assurance, risk-management, and promotion. 
  • Require the development of best practices all Organization Delegation Authorizations (ODA), including best practices that all manufacturers shall incorporate to ensure any reports of undue pressure or regulatory coziness are addressed. 
  • Require FAA to review and reassess assumptions related to “human factors” – the interface between human and machine – when certifying aircraft, particularly those situations involving multiple cockpit alerts and automation.
  • Require FAA to conduct more research into human factors with respect to the design and certification of aircraft.
  • Require flight testing by a representative sample of international and domestic airline pilots. 
  • Require FAA to review its own expertise and capability to adequately understand the safety implications of new or innovative technologies, materials, and procedures that designers and manufacturers of passenger aircraft may adopt or introduce.

Click here to read the bill.

On June 17, 2020, the Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on the FAA’s oversight of its certification processes. FAA Administrator Steve Dickson will testify about issues associated with the design, development, certification, and operation of the Boeing 737 MAX following international accidents in the past two years.