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 ChaoWhy an independent panel must investigate Boeing crashes 'Distractor in Chief' has made room for unprecedented regulatory reform Trump Cabinet down to three women amid administration turnover MORE on aviation oversight following the recent fatality on a Southwest Airlines flight.

House Transportation Committee ranking member Peter DeFazioPeter Anthony DeFazioCongress: Pass legislation that invests in America's water future Not-So-Fat Cats: Over 25 million lower income workers will be paying the Wall Street Tax Airports push lawmakers to raise passenger fees MORE (D-Ore.) and Aviation Subcommittee ranking member Rick LarsenRichard (Rick) Ray LarsenBooker takes early lead in 2020 endorsements Senate panel to hold hearing on airline safety after Boeing crashes FAA comes under new scrutiny over Boeing decision 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 NortonBipartisan group asks DHS, ICE to halt deportations of Iraqi nationals Lawmakers introduce bill to create women's history Smithsonian Dem lawmakers unveil Journalist Protection Act amid Trump attacks on media MORE (D), who sits on the Transportation Committee, penned her own letter earlier this week urging DeFazio, Larsen, committee Chairman Bill ShusterWilliam (Bill) Franklin ShusterEx-GOP congressman heads to investment bank Former GOP chairman Royce joins lobbying shop Lobbying world MORE (R-Pa.) and Aviation Subcommittee Chairman Frank LoBiondoFrank Alo LoBiondoThe 31 Trump districts that will determine the next House majority LoBiondo launches consulting firm Live coverage: House elects new Speaker as Dems take charge 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.