September 28, 2020

T&I Leaders Unveil Bipartisan Legislation to Strengthen FAA’s Certification Process and Improve the Regulatory System

The comprehensive bill, which includes nearly 30 different sections, locks in new requirements on the disclosure of safety-critical information, increases civil penalties for violations, provides resources to FAA to recruit and retain highly-qualified staff, strengthens whistleblower protections, requires focused reviews of pilot training standards, and more 

Bill Text| Section-by-Section

 Washington, DC- Today, Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Ranking Member Sam Graves (R-MO) joined Subcommittee on Aviation Chair Rick Larsen (D-WA) and Ranking Member Garret Graves (R-LA) to announce bipartisan legislation designed to strengthen the Federal Aviation Administration’s certification process and improve the regulatory process. Their bipartisan bill, the “Aircraft Certification Reform and Accountability Act,” addresses recommendations made as the result of the many reviews conducted of the design, development, and certification of the Boeing 737 MAX. The legislation also incorporates a bipartisan bill to improve the analysis of human factors, analysis that was recommended by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and is needed as airplanes become increasingly automated. The comprehensive bill will be considered during a Full Committee markup on Wednesday, September 30.

Among other things, the “Aircraft Certification Reform and Accountability Act:”

  • Reforms and improves the FAA’s process for certifying new airplane designs;
  • Requires U.S. aircraft and aerospace industry manufacturers to adopt safety management systems, which include safety reporting programs for their employees;
  • Requires an expert review panel to evaluate Boeing’s safety culture and to make recommendations for improvements;
  • Requires manufacturers to complete system safety assessments for significant design changes, to ensure that risk calculations are based on realistic assumptions of pilot response time, and to share risk assessments with the FAA;
  • Requires the FAA to revise and improve the agency’s process for amending type certificates of older airplane designs to add new derivatives and ensure harmonization with the processes of other international states of design;
  • Creates a Call to Action on pilot training to assess, among other things, global pilots’ manual flying skills and effectiveness in managing automation to improve safety;
  • Prohibits a transport-category aircraft manufacturer’s failure to disclose to the FAA, airlines, and pilots, detailed information on systems such as MCAS that can alter an airplane’s flightpath without pilot command and other augmentation and autoflight systems;
  • Prohibits delivery of airplanes that do not conform to their FAA-approved type designs, except when the non-conformity was unintentional, does not erode safety by any measure, is fully disclosed to the FAA and customer, and corrected within a specified timeframe;
  • Extends airline whistleblower protections to U.S. manufacturing employees so these employees can report safety concerns without fear of reprisal by their employers;
  • Requires FAA approval of new Organization Designation Authorization (ODA) unit members beginning one year after enactment, and imposes a civil penalty against those individuals within a company who interfere with a unit member’s performance of their FAA-authorized duties; and
  • Authorizes more resources to recruit new and retain FAA certification-related personnel.

 (Read the Section-by-Section.)

“For the past 18 months, the Boeing 737 MAX has been synonymous with the tragic loss of 346 innocent people, a broken safety culture at Boeing, and grossly insufficient oversight by the FAA. And like many people, I was alarmed and outraged by many of the findings that were revealed over the course of our Committee’s investigation into the certification of this aircraft,” Chair Peter DeFazio said. “But being alarmed and outraged is not where this story should end. With the comprehensive legislation we are unveiling today, I believe history can also show this was the moment Congress stepped up to meaningfully address the gaps in the regulatory system for certifying aircraft and adopt critical reforms that will improve public safety and ensure accountability at all levels going forward. I commend my Republican colleagues for coming to the table to work together on these critical reforms and who have always agreed with Democrats that improving safety should never be a partisan issue. I look forward to quickly moving our bipartisan bill through Committee and sending this bill to the Senate.”

“As a professional pilot and regular user of the aviation system, I appreciate how paramount safety is to our airspace. The United States is the global leader in aviation safety and is the driving force behind this effort to make our system even safer,” Ranking Member Sam Graves said. “Expert reports analyzing the tragic accidents involving Ethiopian Airlines and Lion Air highlighted key problems with our certification process. These thorough, non-partisan, expert reviews provided recommendations that formulated the basis of improvements we are seeking through this legislation.  I believe this bill will improve safety and strengthen America’s competitiveness in the aerospace industry while ensuring that the United States and the FAA continue to be the global gold standard in aviation.”

“Congress has an obligation to the 346 victims of the two Boeing 737 MAX crashes and their families, as well as the traveling public, to ensure the safety of air travel,” Chair Rick Larsen said. “This bipartisan legislation will help restore the integrity of the aircraft certification process by improving aviation safety culture, enhancing transparency and integrating human factors to ensure pilots and flight crews can do their jobs safely and efficiently. I will continue to work with Chair DeFazio, the Ranking Members and my colleagues to pass this critical legislation to improve aviation safety.”

“While the United States is the gold standard in aviation safety, recent accidents have made it clear that we must continue to strive for perfection. The bill we’re introducing today does that by raising our high standards even higher,” Ranking Member Garret Graves said. “In developing this bipartisan bill, we’ve stayed focused on the findings and recommendations of multiple non-partisan, expert review panels to inform our efforts.  We know that improving collaboration and communication in our system advances aviation manufacturing’s safety culture and ensures continued U.S. leadership in aerospace.”

Groups supporting the “Aircraft Certification Reform and Accountability Act” include:

ALPA (Air Line Pilots Association, International)

APA (Allied Pilots Association)

AFA-CWA (Association of Flight Attendants-CWA)

CAPA (Coalition of Airline Pilots Associations)

IAM (International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers)

IFPTE (International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers)

International Brotherhood of Teamsters

NATCA (National Air Traffic Controllers Association)

PASS (Professional Aviation Safety Specialists)

SPEEA (Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace)

SWAPA (Southwest Airlines Pilots Association)

TTD (Transportation Trades Department of the AFL-CIO)

TWU (Transport Workers Union)

[List will be continuously updated]


Press Contact

Kerry Arndt (Majority Staff)

Justin Harclerode (Minority Staff)