February 07, 2023

Ranking Member Larsen Statement from FAA Reauthorization Hearing on Aviation Safety

Washington, D.C. — The following are opening remarks, as prepared for delivery, from Ranking Member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Rick Larsen (D-WA) during today’s hearing titled, “FAA Reauthorization: Enhancing America’s Gold Standard in Aviation Safety.” Video of Larsen’s opening statement is hereMore information on the hearing can be found here.Ranking Member Larsen:Good morning. Thank you, Chairman Graves, for calling today’s hearing on Aviation Safety—to kick off our efforts to develop and pass the next Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill. In this hearing, we will evaluate the different policies, programs and technologies that have led to the U.S. becoming a global leader in aviation safety and what improvements still need to be made.According to the FAA, commercial aviation fatalities in the U.S. have decreased by 95% over the last 25 years.While this downward trend clearly demonstrates the great strides made in U.S. aviation safety and should be applauded, more work still needs to be done. For instance, just last month, the FAA’s safety notice system, also known as the Notice to Air Missions (NOTAM) system, failed when a contractor inadvertently deleted a file on a NOTAM database, leading the FAA to ground flights nationwide.Though the outage was initially caused by human error, the system’s lack of redundancies and outdated technology were what allowed it to happen in the first place.  While the FAA is in the midst of a multi-year NOTAM modernization effort, we must do more to strengthen the IT infrastructure that supports the national airspace system (NAS).That is why I, along with Chairman Graves, supported the recent House passage of Representative Stauber and DeSaulnier’s NOTAM Improvement Act, to create a task force to evaluate and recommend improvements to the NOTAM system.Aircraft certification has also been a priority of this committee for the last several years.In the wake of the tragic Boeing 737 MAX accidents, this committee conducted a nearly two-year investigation into the design, development and certification of the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft.The results led Congress to pass the Aircraft Certification, Safety and Accountability Act in 2020, to restore the integrity of the FAA’s aircraft certification process and make air travel safer.I look forward to hearing from FAA Acting Associate Administrator for Aviation Safety, Dave Boulter, on the status of these key reforms, the agency’s progress, and any reasons for delay.Also of particular interest, is how new airspace entrants, such as advanced air mobility (AAM) aircraft and drones, will integrate safely into the NAS. Manufacturers and operators need timely guidance and regulatory certainty from the FAA to plan for and meet the agency’s new certification and operating requirements.Finally, aviation safety issues are not limited to just the FAA; it often requires multiple federal agencies and industries to coordinate.For instance, just one year ago, the nationwide deployment of 5G wireless rightfully raised aviation safety concerns over potential interference with aircraft radio altimeters. Due to the actions of this committee, FAA and aviation stakeholders, AT&T and Verizon finally came to the table and coordinated with the FAA, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to develop a plan allowing for the safe deployment of 5G while also maintaining aviation safety.In fact, the FAA is briefing this committee on its 5G efforts later today.The best way to address these and other critical aviation safety issues is through a bipartisan, long-term FAA reauthorization bill.The 2018 FAA reauthorization law was the first significant multi-year reauthorization since 2012, and the first five-year reauthorization since 1982.According to the FAA, “the signing of that long term bill, freed the agency from the uncertainty of more short-term extensions and authorized the reliable, predictable funding the FAA needed to invest in critical priorities.”I look forward to working with Chairman Graves and the members of this committee to ensure the FAA has the necessary funding and long-term certainty it needs.Finally, I’m glad to see the range of witnesses we have today.We have the FAA and NTSB, who are responsible for ensuring safe aviation and commercial space operations, and representation from aviation labor, manufacturers, operators, and technical experts.I look forward to hearing your testimony.As this committee considers the upcoming FAA reauthorization, we remain committed to ensuring the highest level of aviation safety. Thank you and I look forward to tackling these issues to ensure the safety of the flying public.