Dems push Chao on aviation oversight after death on Southwest flight

Dems push Chao on aviation oversight after death on Southwest flight
© Greg Nash

Two Democrats on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee are pushing Transportation Secretary Elaine ChaoElaine Lan ChaoBlankenship third-party bid worries Senate GOP Blankenship to run third-party Senate campaign after losing GOP primary McConnell brother-in-law picked by Trump to lead pension agency MORE on aviation oversight following the recent fatality on a Southwest Airlines flight.

House Transportation Committee ranking member Peter DeFazioPeter Anthony DeFazioHouse panel unveils bipartisan water infrastructure bill Trump's infrastructure plan hits a dead end House passes 5-year reauthorization of Federal Aviation Administration MORE (D-Ore.) and Aviation Subcommittee ranking member Rick LarsenRichard (Rick) Ray LarsenOvernight Finance: Trump signs repeal of auto-loan policy | Justices uphold contracts that bar employee class-action suits | US, China trade war 'on hold' Free traders applaud Trump as China tariff threat recedes House passes 5-year reauthorization of Federal Aviation Administration MORE (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.

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“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 NortonEleanor Holmes NortonOvernight Defense: Senate confirms Haspel as CIA chief | Trump offers Kim 'protections' if he gives up nukes | Dem amendments target Trump military parade Defense bill amendments target Trump's military parade Park Police officers were forbidden from wearing body cameras: memo MORE (D), who sits on the Transportation Committee, penned her own letter earlier this week urging DeFazio, Larsen, committee Chairman Bill ShusterWilliam (Bill) Franklin ShusterMajority of Americans say Trump is not giving infrastructure enough attention GOP chairman to introduce infrastructure bill this summer Freedom Caucus bruised but unbowed in GOP primary fights MORE (R-Pa.) and Aviation Subcommittee Chairman Frank LoBiondoFrank Alo LoBiondoCongress — when considering women’s health, don’t forget about lung cancer GOP revolts multiply against retiring Ryan GOP split on immigration is a crisis for Ryan’s team MORE (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.