Dems push Chao on aviation oversight after death on Southwest flight
Two Democrats on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee are pushing Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao on aviation oversight following the recent fatality on a Southwest Airlines flight.
House Transportation Committee ranking member Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) and Aviation Subcommittee ranking member Rick Larsen (D-Wash.) wrote a letter to Chao and refer to both the death on the Southwest flight and a recent CBS “60 Minutes” story about mechanical problems on low-budget carrier Allegiant.
“We write to express our serious concerns regarding what these episodes imply about FAA oversight of airlines and aircraft repair stations,” the lawmakers said in the letter, which copied Daniel Elwell, the acting administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
DeFazio and Larsen requested a briefing with senior FAA officials to discuss various oversight matters, in addition to an oversight report from the FAA on Allegiant. They also asked for a response from the Transportation Department on the fatal Southwest incident.
“We request that you provide complete responses to the above questions and schedule the above briefing as soon as possible,” DeFazio and Larsen wrote.
The letter comes amid a renewed focus on aviation safety after a female passenger aboard a Southwest flight was killed Tuesday when a piece of the engine broke off mid-air, shattered a window and partially sucked the woman out of the plane.
District of Columbia Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), who sits on the Transportation Committee, penned her own letter earlier this week urging DeFazio, Larsen, committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) and Aviation Subcommittee Chairman Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.) to hold a hearing on safety following the incident.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is investigating the Southwest incident, but Chairman Robert Sumwalt said the blown engine showed “metal fatigue.”
The emphasis on aviation safety also comes as the House prepares to take up its recently unveiled five-year FAA reauthorization.