Markey pushes to mandate more plane safety features

Sen. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyDemocrats urge Rick Perry not to roll back lightbulb efficiency rules Ocasio-Cortez taps supporters for donations as former primary opponent pitches for Kennedy Rep. Joe Kennedy has history on his side in Senate bid MORE (D-Mass.) introduced a bill Thursday that would require aircraft manufacturers to provide additional safety features to airlines at no additional cost in the wake of a pair of high-profile deadly crashes.

Markey said in a statement accompanying the bill that Boeing safety features deemed optional by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) could have prevented last month's deadly Ethiopian Airlines crash that killed scores of people shortly after takeoff.

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“For Boeing, safety features that could have saved 346 lives on two of their 737 MAX 8s were yet another profit center, deemed optional like premium seats, extra bathrooms, or fancy lighting,” wrote the senator, who sits on the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.

“Aviation safety cannot be a luxury that is bought and sold for an extra fee, but a standard part of our fleets, engrained in every bolt, sensor, and line of code on an aircraft," Markey continued. "The Safety is Not for Sale Act will ensure that all safety-enhancing equipment is never sold as a la carte add-ons.”

The bill would require aircraft manufacturers to offer any additional safety features not required under FAA guidelines provided to airlines at no extra cost. Eight Democratic senators including Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharKlobuchar takes shots at health and education plans supported by Sanders and Warren O'Rourke campaign says path to victory hinges on top 5 finishes in Iowa, Nevada O'Rourke raises .5 million in third quarter MORE (Minn.), who is running for president in 2020, are co-sponsoring the bill.

Markey's legislation is supported by several unions representing airline workers, including the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, part of AFL-CIO.

“When grieving the loss of a loved one following an aircraft accident, no one ever talks about the great ticket price they paid. Safety is presumed not for sale,” Sara Wilson, the union's international president, said in the release Thursday.

“These Senators are proposing legislation that is fundamental to confidence in air travel and the expectation that U.S. aviation is a world leader in aviation safety. Our lives and our jobs depend on the core principle that safety is priceless, just like every soul on the plane," she continued.

Last month's deadly crash involving a 737 MAX 8 jet, which killed 157 people, led to countries around the world, including the U.S., to ground the moden for commercial travel. A previous crash in 2018 involving the same class of Boeing jet killed 189 people.

In a letter to the senators, Boeing's executive vice president of government operations wrote that the safety features described by Markey would be standard in all 737 MAX 8 jets going forward, and that airlines had been offered retrofits with the new safety features at no cost weeks ago.

“All aircraft delivered by Boeing and certified by the FAA are equipped with all critical safety features necessary to operate the plane safely. This equipment is standard, and it does not cost extra," wrote Boeing's Tim Keating.

—Updated at 6:29 p.m.