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 ChaoMcConnell: I won't be intimidated by protesters Protesters confront McConnell leaving Kentucky restaurant The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by Better Medicare Alliance — Wild night of primaries reshapes 2018 midterms MORE on aviation oversight following the recent fatality on a Southwest Airlines flight.

House Transportation Committee ranking member Peter DeFazioPeter Anthony DeFazioProgressives poised to shape agenda if Dems take back House Transportation Department watchdog to examine airplane cabin evacuation standards House passes bipartisan water infrastructure bill MORE (D-Ore.) and Aviation Subcommittee ranking member Rick LarsenRichard (Rick) Ray LarsenTransportation Department watchdog to examine airplane cabin evacuation standards Dems win nail-biter in charity congressional soccer game Overnight Finance: Trump signs repeal of auto-loan policy | Justices uphold contracts that bar employee class-action suits | US, China trade war 'on hold' 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 Health Care: House votes to repeal medical device tax | Fierce ObamaCare critic joins administration | GOP senators target DC individual mandate Two lives cut too short in vastly different ways Major League Soccer player comes out publicly as gay MORE (D), who sits on the Transportation Committee, penned her own letter earlier this week urging DeFazio, Larsen, committee Chairman Bill ShusterWilliam (Bill) Franklin ShusterHouse GOP chairman introduces draft of infrastructure plan Hoyer updates Dems' economic agenda with sights on taking House Overnight Defense: VA pick breezes through confirmation hearing | House votes to move on defense bill negotiations | Senate bill would set 'stringent' oversight on North Korea talks MORE (R-Pa.) and Aviation Subcommittee Chairman Frank LoBiondoFrank Alo LoBiondoDems eyeing smaller magic number for House majority GOP campaign arm withdraws support from NJ House candidate who made racist statements GOP runs into Trump tax law in New Jersey 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.