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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 and wife confronted by customers at restaurant Claiming 'spousal privilege' to stonewall Congress Hillicon Valley: Facebook rift over exec's support for Kavanaugh | Dem worried about Russian trolls jumping into Kavanaugh debate | China pushes back on Pence MORE on aviation oversight following the recent fatality on a Southwest Airlines flight.

House Transportation Committee ranking member Peter DeFazioPeter Anthony DeFazioTrump more involved in blocking FBI HQ sale than initially thought: Dems Trump makes new overtures to Democrats Dems eye ambitious agenda if House flips 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 NortonThe Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by Better Medicare Alliance — Steady Kavanaugh proves to be a tough target for Democrats Dems vow rules overhaul to empower members if House flips Overnight Health Care: House votes to repeal medical device tax | Fierce ObamaCare critic joins administration | GOP senators target DC individual mandate 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 and Senate negotiators reach agreement on water infrastructure bill Congress, states and cities are not doing enough today to fix our infrastructure It’s high time for a discussion on infrastructure MORE (R-Pa.) and Aviation Subcommittee Chairman Frank LoBiondoFrank Alo LoBiondoHouse GOP group cuts financial support for Coffman, Bishop Jordan hits campaign trail amid bid for Speaker On The Money: Broad coalition unites against Trump tariffs | Senate confirms new IRS chief | Median household income rose for third straight year in 2017 | Jamie Dimon's brief battle with Trump 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.