Ranking Member Cantwell, Senator Duckworth Introduce Aviation Safety Legislation

Codifies recommendations from multiple government agencies to help U.S. aviation industry address safety challenges posed by automation

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Yesterday, U.S. Senate Commerce Committee Ranking Member Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) introduced legislation to implement aviation safety recommendations from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General (DOT IG), and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) that seek to address challenges related to increased automation in commercial aircraft cockpits, as well as how pilots respond to flight deck alerts and uncommanded flight control inputs.

In September 2019, the NTSB released seven safety recommendations related to the two 737 MAX crashes in October 2018 and March 2019. Previously, in 2016 the DOT IG released recommendations aimed at helping airlines and aerospace manufacturers address the challenge of a growing reliance on automation in commercial aircraft. In 2013, ICAO recommended civil aviation authorities require aerospace manufacturers to adopt safety management systems (SMS) to identify and control risks.

“For more than a hundred years, the United States has led the world in aviation and aviation safety. We have a duty to continue that leadership,” Cantwell said. “As aviation systems become increasingly complex and rely more on automation, our manufacturers and federal regulators need to remain on the cutting edge of innovation to keep travelers safe. This bill will help us do that. As we learn more from recent tragedies, I will continue to review the forthcoming recommendations from the investigating bodies and consider additional legislation to help maintain the industry’s strongest safety standards. The flying public deserve nothing less.”

“This legislation will put the NTSB’s recent recommendations on flight safety and automation into law. Similar to FAA’s advanced materials Center of Excellence housed at the University of Washington, it will also create an FAA Center of Excellence dedicated to this challenge of increased automation and pilot response,” Cantwell continued.

“As we continue to learn more from the multiple investigations into Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, clear opportunities to improve aviation safety and protect the traveling public have emerged,” Duckworth said. “We have a solemn obligation to the families of the 346 individuals who lost their lives to learn the lessons of these tragedies and prevent such events from ever occurring again. This legislation, based on recent recommendations by the National Transportation Safety Board and the Department of Transportation’s Inspector General, is a first step in what I expect will be a series of actions by the Senate Commerce Committee and others. I applaud Ranking Member Cantwell’s expertise and leadership on this issue and I stand ready to work with her and others on the Committee to honor those who lost their lives.”

Specifically, the legislation would:

  • Require implementation of the NTSB’s recommendations, both with respect to the Boeing 737 MAX aircrafts specifically and other aircrafts and manufacturers more broadly;
  • Require implementation of the DOT IG’s 2016 recommendations on managing the challenge of growing reliance on automation in complex aircraft;
  • Mandate the establishment of safety management systems (SMS) for aircraft manufacturers;
  • Create an FAA “Center for Excellence” focused on flight automation and human factors in commercial aircraft.

A detailed summary of Ranking Member Cantwell and Senator Duckworth’s legislation is available HERE.

The full text of Ranking Member Cantwell and Senator Duckworth’s legislation is available HERE.