03.31.19

SCHUMER REVEALS: AMIDST ACTIVE & ON-GOING INVESTIGATION BY FEDS INTO RECENT PLANE CRASHES, ALL SIGNS POINT TO BOEING RETAINING ITS SEAT ON UNDER-THE-RADAR COMMITTEE CHARGED WITH RECOMMENDING AIRLINE INDUSTRY REGS; SENATOR DEMANDS FEDS SUSPEND BOEING UNTIL SAFETY INVESTIGATION IS COMPLETE & MAKE PUBLIC WHOSE IN ON ALL THE MEETINGS

Schumer Reveals Details On Little-Known FAA Committee Called Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee (ARAC); Members, That Include Airlines & Industry, Meet To Talk About What They Want Feds To Do For Them—Even Around Airplane Safety

Schumer Says Boeing Membership Is Clear Sign That Committee -- Whose Full Members Are Arguably Secret -- Must Be Totally Reformed & Made More Transparent  

Schumer: Airline & Industry Seats On Clandestine FAA Rulemaking Committee Is Like Fox Guarding Henhouse; Ground Boeing’s Full Membership    

As a drip-drip-drip of alarming concerns continue to trickle in about Boeing and the FAA’s culture of safety, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer revealed, today, that amidst an active and ongoing investigation by the feds into recent Boeing crashes, and a preliminary report that points to serious issues with Boeing’s planes, all signs point to the company retaining its seat on an under-the-radar Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) committee. The committee, known as the Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee (ARAC), is charged with recommending airline industry regulations that include possible safety oversight. In light of these serious concerns, Schumer, today, immediately demanded three deliverables from the FAA in hopes of shining a light on this committee and the FAA’s continued hesitation to fully address questions concerning their culture of safety.

“Earlier this week, we heard the federal Department of Transportation lament about an overly ‘cozy’ relationship between the FAA and industry, but clandestine committees like ARAC act like a proverbial blanket with their lack of transparency and the comfortable cover they provide for companies like Boeing,” said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer. “It makes no sense for Boeing —or any company for that matter— to be involved in an active investigation surrounding questions of safety while also retaining ‘membership’ on a federal committee that recommends airline industry regulations. That is why I am demanding the FAA both suspend Boeing from this committee and any others until the formal investigation has ended, and to also answer serious questions I have raised."

Specifically, Schumer is demanding the FAA do three things:

1) Suspend and/or update the public on Boeing’s membership on the committee known as ARAC;

2) Make public who else sits on the committee (all airline and industry members) and release the minutes of each and every meeting since the Trump administration took office;

3) Commit to reforming the entire FAA committee by examining the member selection process, transparency, and potential conflicts of interest so the public and Congress know who is making regulatory decisions at the FAA-- and for what reasons.

“We are now in a situation where Congress must pay even closer attention to the FAA to ensure a culture of safety, and one of the first rocks we must turn over is the Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee,” Schumer added.

As of June 2017, members of the Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee had compiled about 300 suggestions of potential regulations that could be taken off the FAA’s books because they are too ‘cumbersome’ or ‘costly.’ Minutes from a September meeting of the group include at least four attendees from Boeing. Schumer explained that he does not know the status of those aforementioned suggestions.

Within the past five months, there have been two airplane crashes involving the Boeing 737 Max jet: Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airline Flight 302. On October 29th, 2018, the Lion Air Flight traveling within Indonesia crashed 12 minutes after takeoff, killing all 189 passengers and crew. Two weeks ago from today, Ethiopian Airline Flight traveling from Ethiopia to Kenya crashed six minutes after takeoff, killing all 157 people on board. In response to the second crash, hundreds of Boeing 737 Max jets have been grounded worldwide. On March 13th, the FAA followed suit and issued an order grounding the Boeing 737 Max planes. Several U.S. airlines, including United Airlines, American Airlines and Southwest Airlines fly 74 Boeing 737 Max jets, according to the FAA.

Both the FAA and the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the Ethiopian Airline Flight 302 crash and the Boeing 737 Max grounding will remain in effect during the investigation, according to the FAA.

Schumer’s letter to Acting FAA Administrator Daniel Elwell appears below:

Dear Acting Administrator Elwell:

I write today to follow-up on concerns I publicly raised last week concerning Executive Orders, the overall culture of safety at the FAA, and Boeing. Specifically, I want to raise serious concerns and questions related to the Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee, also known as ARAC.

Under federal order 1110.119S, you are designated as the ‘sponsor’ of ARAC and the committee reports to you directly through the Associate Administrator for Aviation Safety. While members of ARAC are appointed by the Secretary of Transportation, your role as sponsor warrants a response to questions of transparency, membership and regulatory agenda items.

According to federal law, ARAC meets at least three times annually to “manage administrative issues and address FAA-assigned tasks.” In addition, the FAA is charged with publishing agendas, dates, times and locations of any meetings. Despite this charge, only cursory information is available on the FAA website about the committee and Boeing’s membership. More concerning, minutes of each and every meeting are unavailable to the public, as is the criteria for membership and a transparent chronicling of how ‘members’ like Boeing are chosen, and the specific recommendations or regulatory agenda items they propose or advance.

Given the serious issues raised recently as it relates to Boeing, and an overall culture of safety at the FAA, I am requesting that your agency meet three deliverables as soon as possible:

1) Suspend and/or update the public on Boeing’s membership on the committee known as ARAC;

2) Make public who else sits on the committee (all airline and industry members) and release the minutes of each and every meeting since the Trump administration took office;

3) Commit to reforming the entire FAA committee by examining the member selection process, transparency, and potential conflicts of interest so the public and Congress know who is making regulatory decisions at the FAA-- and for what reasons.

Furthermore, your agency must be tasked with ensuring a far better online access to information as it relates to this committee and any others that include the FAA, airlines and industry.

For example, reports indicate that ARAC has recommended striking at least 300 FAA regulations. These suggestions are not posted online and an update on where they presently exist in the regulatory queue is unavailable for easy access. Congress and the public expect instant access and transparency in order to assess safety concerns and potential conflicts of interest at the FAA.

Please do not hesitate to contact me as it relates to this request or any questions raised by this letter. I look forward to your timely response.

Sincerely,

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer

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