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Seek hearing on Boeing 737 Max 8 jets & call for it to include engine safety issues that caused SW Airlines crash that resulted in death of NM constituent

Udall & Heinrich first called for hearing on engine and other safety issues at FAA last year after years without Congressional safety oversight

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich wrote to the Senate Commerce Committee leadership to support the committee’s call for a hearing on aviation safety issues with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the wake of two fatal crashes involving Boeing 737 Max 8 jets, and to request that that the hearing also include a discussion about engine safety issues that caused a Southwest Airlines crash last year, which resulted in the death of a New Mexico constituent.

Udall and Heinrich initially called for a hearing on aviation safety last year after safety issues with CFM56 engines caused a mid-air explosion on a Southwest Airlines flight, which resulted in the tragic death of a New Mexico constituent, Jennifer Riordan – the first U.S. passenger fatality since 2009. The senators wrote, “While air travel in the United States continues to have a strong overall safety record, we initially requested this hearing last year after a mid-air explosion of an engine caused the first U.S. aviation fatality since 2009, and one of our constituents, Jennifer Riordan, was tragically lost. With the addition of two very serious crashes of 737 Max jets overseas in recent months, this Committee must show its dedication to improving aviation safety in general.”

In their letter, the senators requested that the hearing address these issues along with those related to the Boeing 737 Max 8 jets: “We respectfully request that this hearing also specifically review the possible safety issues related to CFM56 engines, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)’s actions leading to the publication of the Airworthiness Directive to increase the inspections of the CFM56 engine following last year’s accident, and possible metal fatigue issues in other engines commonly used by airlines,” they wrote. 

“This Committee and traveling public should hear from the FAA about how it has made its airworthiness determination and why it has not taken similar precautions. Congress and the public also deserve to hear what the FAA and the airlines using these jets are doing proactively to ensure no similar accidents occur with U.S. airlines making use of these planes,” they continued. 

“It is essential that the Commerce Committee uphold its vital tradition of aviation safety oversight when it comes to incidents such as the recent engine failures and other potential issues with planes and their components,” the senators concluded. 

The full text of the letter is available HERE and below.

Dear Chairman Wicker and Ranking Member Cantwell:

We write to welcome your comments yesterday announcing that the Senate Commerce Committee will hold a hearing soon on the recent overseas crashes involving Boeing 737 Max 8 jets.  

Last year, following an engine accident that led to the first U.S. passenger fatality in many years, we requested an aviation safety hearing from the previous leadership of the Commerce Committee, and that letter is attached for your review.  No hearing was held and it has been several years since this Committee conducted meaningful oversight over aviation safety. I/we are pleased that this seems poised to change.

As you know, there have been two deadly crashes involving the Boeing 737 Max 8 jets, both of which killed everyone on board.  These tragedies occurred overseas and are still under investigation, but they deserve the immediate attention of this Committee. A number of foreign nations, including China, Australia and the United Kingdom, have temporarily grounded these jets following these tragedies as a precautionary measure. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), on the other hand, has issued a notice of continued airworthiness.

After the Lion Air accident last year, pilots associated with Southwest Airlines and American Airlines expressed their concern about the lack of communication from Boeing about the software issues with the 737 Max 8.  This Committee and traveling public should hear from the FAA about how it has made its airworthiness determination and why it has not taken similar precautions. Congress and the public also deserve to hear what the FAA and the airlines using these jets are doing proactively to ensure no similar accidents occur with U.S. airlines making use of these planes.

While air travel in the United States continues to have a strong overall safety record, we initially requested this hearing last year after a mid-air explosion of an engine caused the first U.S. aviation fatality since 2009, and one of our constituents, Jennifer Riordan, was tragically lost. With the addition of two very serious crashes of 737 Max jets overseas in recent months, this Committee must show its dedication to improving aviation safety in general. 

In addition to the recent crashes, and the grounding of these jets by a number of nations, we respectfully request that this hearing also specifically review the possible safety issues related to CFM56 engines, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)’s actions leading to the publication of the Airworthiness Directive to increase the inspections of the CFM56 engine following last year’s accident, and possible metal fatigue issues in other engines commonly used by airlines.

The Commerce Committee held a series of hearings last Congress leading up to the FAA Reauthorization bill, but not a single hearing had focused primarily on safety issues in at least three years. It is essential that the Commerce Committee uphold its vital tradition of aviation safety oversight when it comes to incidents such as the recent engine failures and other potential issues with planes and their components.   

Given the recent accidents and the implementation of last year’s FAA reauthorization it is critical to have this hearing as soon as reasonably possible.  It is our hope to have witnesses from the FAA, airlines, and engine and jet manufacturers to speak to the issues highlighted in this letter.

Thank you for decision to hold a hearing on aviation safety and your consideration of this request.  

Sincerely,

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