December 22, 2020

House T&I and Senate Commerce Committee Leaders Applaud Passage of Comprehensive Aircraft Certification Reform and Safety Legislation

The Aircraft Certification, Safety, and Accountability Act builds upon bipartisan bills passed last month in the House and Senate Commerce Committee

Washington, DC - Today, Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Ranking Member Sam Graves (R-MO) joined Chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Ranking Member Maria Cantwell (D-WA) to applaud final passage of historic and comprehensive aviation safety legislation—the Aircraft Certification, Safety, and Accountability Act—to reform and strengthen the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) aircraft certification process, which was included as part of the omnibus spending bill. The proposed changes come after the conclusion of multiple reviews and investigations into the FAA’s certification of the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, which suffered two crashes in the span of five months that killed 346 people.

“Our bipartisan—and now bicameral deal—is the result of nearly two years of intense investigation in my Committee, multiple public hearings on both sides of the Capitol, and countless conversations with the families of the victims and the aviation community about how best to address the failings that led to the development of a fatally-flawed aircraft and an FAA certification process that ultimately allowed that aircraft into service,” Chair DeFazio said. “I’m immensely grateful to my Congressional partners in this effort, especially Aviation Subcommittee Chair Rick Larsen, who have all been steadfast in our mission to make sure the story of the MAX is never repeated. And of course, we owe a debt of gratitude to the Stumo family, Paul Njoroge, and all those who lost their loved ones who have kept a bright spotlight on the issue in order to bring about change. I look forward to this bipartisan legislation moving quickly and being signed into law, ushering in a new chapter in aviation safety in this country and around the world.”

“This bicameral agreement will not only strengthen our country’s aviation certification process, it will enable continued American competitiveness in the aerospace industry and ensure the United States remains the gold standard in aviation safety,” Ranking Member Graves said. “I want to thank Chairman DeFazio, Chairman Wicker, Ranking Member Cantwell, House Aviation Subcommittee Ranking Member Garret Graves and Chairman Rick Larsen, and all those who agreed to set politics aside and  develop a final legislative proposal that focuses on the aviation experts’ recommendations.  This bill makes America’s safe aviation system even safer by acknowledging and applying the painful lessons we’ve learned as a result of the two tragic accidents, seeks improvement of global aviation safety standards, and enhances our own system without needlessly tearing it apart.”

“After reviewing the evidence from incident reports, soliciting recommendations from aviation experts, speaking to witnesses and stakeholders, and holding a series of hearings, this bill was drafted in direct response to information stemming from the fatal crashes involving the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft,” Chairman Wicker said. “It also includes provisions to address findings from the Commerce Committee’s extensive investigation of aviation safety. The legislation will make critical reforms to the FAA’s oversight and certification process.”

“It's so important that we make safety, the number one priority in the United States. If we want to be number one in aviation, you have to be number one in aviation safety. Chairman Wicker and I worked with our colleagues on both sides of the aisle to produce important legislation that improves the safety reforms needed at the FAA, the safety reforms of oversight of manufacturing and the certification process, and reforms that will help us here in Congress better stay on top of the information as far as the certification process,” Ranking Member Cantwell said. “I want to thank all of the families who helped us in communicating why these safety reforms are important … and to let them know that even though we're putting a big down payment on safety reforms in the United States Congress by passing this legislation, this process does not stop with the passage of this legislation.”

“This historic legislation is a major step to prevent the certification of substandard aircraft and avoiding future crashes,” said Michael Stumo, whose daughter Samya died in the Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 crash. “ET302 families across the world have worked hard to eliminate excessive delegation and to hold those who hide safety defects accountable. We are indebted to Chairman DeFazio, Ranking Member Graves, Chairman Wicker and Ranking Member Cantwell for their hard work and dedication to safety and the future excellence of the US aviation industry.”

Among other provisions, the bipartisan agreement:

  • Provides direct FAA approval of organization delegation authorization (ODA) unit members—employees at aircraft manufacturers who approve findings of compliance with design requirements on the FAA’s behalf;
  • Requires the appointment of FAA safety advisors to strengthen FAA oversight of and communication with ODA unit members throughout the certification process;
  • Requires aviation manufacturers to adopt safety management systems;
  • Requires comprehensive safety analysis of aircraft design changes;
  • Orders an independent review of Boeing’s ODA, safety culture, and capability to perform FAA-delegated functions;
  • Establishes interdisciplinary project teams, consisting of experts from FAA and other federal agencies, to aid FAA in its review of certification submissions related to new technology or novel design;
  • Authorizes civil penalties against aviation manufacturer supervisors who interfere with or place undue pressure on ODA unit members;
  • Ensures that manufacturers will complete system safety assessments on all new and derivative aircraft designs for flight control systems that consider realistic pilot responses to flight deck alerts;
  • Provides new confidential reporting channels at the FAA and whistleblower protections for manufacturer employees;
  • Authorizes more than $75 million over three years for the FAA to recruit and retain engineers, safety inspectors, human factors specialists, software and cybersecurity experts, and other qualified technical experts;
  • Establishes new requirements on the disclosure of safety-critical systems;
  • Strengthens international aviation safety and pilot training standards by authorizing additional funding for bilateral and multilateral engagement and assistance;
  • Creates a new Air Grant fellowship program to increase technical aviation knowledge in Congress and at the FAA and other Federal agencies;
  • Requires the FAA to review pilot training, including manual flying skills training, and the assumptions relied upon by the FAA and manufacturers when designing an airplane, and to work with the international community to improve pilot training globally; and
  • Authorizes new funding for the FAA to develop or expand a FAA Center of Excellence to address flight automation and pilot response.


The Aircraft Certification, Safety, and Accountability Act was included in H.R. 133. To access the provision directly, click here