Cantwell Opening Remarks at Nomination Hearing for NTSB Chair Homendy

April 10, 2024

U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, delivered the following opening remarks at today’s nomination hearing for Jennifer Homendy to serve another term as Chair of the National Transportation Safety Board and Patrick Fuchs as a Member of the Surface Transportation Board. The Committee also heard updates on the Boeing door plug accident and the recent Francis Scott Key bridge collapse in Baltimore. Read the testimonies and watch the hearing here.

Chair Senator Cantwell’s Opening Statement As Delivered: VIDEO

This morning, we’re holding a hearing on the nominations of two individuals the Committee knows well, but it’s important that we get them into their continued roles.

I am pleased to welcome Jennifer Homendy, the Chair of the National Transportation Safety Board, who has been re-nominated for a five-year term, and Patrick Fuchs who has been re-nominated for a five-year term on the Surface Transportation Board.

Chair Homendy has guided the NTSB through some of the most high-profile transportation accidents this nation has seen in recent memory, including the East Palestine derailment, the Alaska Airlines door plug accident, and now the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse, which claimed six lives and closed the Port of Baltimore, causing significant disruptions to our national freight network. I’m so sorry for the loss of lives that occurred at the bridge. It’s a constant reminder of who’s built our nation -- the hardworking men and women who take these risks and do this job. We mourn their loss and give our prayers to their families. 

She has led investigations with independence and integrity to discover the factors that are so important to not have history repeat itself while continuing to support the structure at the NTSB. 

Under her leadership, the agency has eliminated a backlog of 442 overdue investigative reports and worked to ensure the agency has the resources needed to adapt to emerging technologies.

The Committee has -- one example -- marked up our FAA bill, including robust NTSB recommendations. That’s how I believe the system is supposed to work. The NTSB, clearly a watchdog, is doing the hard, hard, hard investigative work reminding us what else needs to be improved upon in the system.


The Senate FAA bill requires the FAA to finalize the 25-hour cockpit recording rule. That is clear as it can be from you, Chair Homendy, the necessary recordings that help you in your investigation. As we know, the cockpit recording in the Alaska Airlines accident was overwritten, complicating your investigation.  We are working hard with our House colleagues to reach an agreement and send the FAA bill to the President’s desk.


I also want to focus on the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge. I commend the brave members of the United States Coast Guard and first responders who quickly conducted search and rescue efforts.

Thanks to President Biden and the Army Corps of engineers tirelessly working to reopen the Port of Baltimore.

The Department of Transportation has already made $60 million available to the state to aid in the rebuilding efforts – but we know much more is needed.

We stand ready to assist the people of Maryland and our important trade and transportation infrastructure that our economy counts on…and look forward to hearing any updates on that investigation this morning.

Mr. Fuchs, a former Commerce Committee staffer for Senator Thune, so it’s great to have you back before the Committee. Being out there, I wonder if you remember all the questions you wrote for members before. We should dig some up. But thank you so much for your continued work through the board on the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw historic issues related to rail service.

Following the East Palestine derailment, the Committee found that from 2017 to 2021, the Class I railroads infrastructure investments were cut by 25 percent and employees were cut by 22 percent while accidents increased 14 percent.

I am concerned about how we guarantee safety for the future and as a state and an economy that is very pacific focused, a lot more volume is mid-west products, all just throughput for our state. So we want the rail to work and work effectively and with resiliency.

I look forward to hearing from you about how we do that.