A top FAA administrator told Congress the ADS-B system is fully operational and the main reason for its limited use is the airlines’ lack of needed onboard equipment, adding that their readiness for the coming 2020 mandate is “not where we would like it to be.” The testimony on Tuesday, from Ali Bahrami, FAA associate administrator for Aviation Safety, came in response to questioning from Peter DeFazio (D-Oregon), during a hearing on aviation safety before the U.S. House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure’s subcommittee on aviation.
Calling safety “this subcommittee’s number one priority,” chairman Frank LoBiondo (R-New Jersey) said, “Recent events and near-misses remind us of the work that remains.” He cited as examples the Air Canada jet that last July almost landed on a taxiway at SFO occupied by four airliners; the more than 200 fatal GA accidents in Fiscal Year 2016; and the fatal crash and post-crash fire of a Grand Canyon sightseeing helicopter two weeks before.
Representatives from the NTSB, NASA, ALPA, and the DOT’s Office of Inspector General also testified on issues including regulating drones, shortages of pilots reported by some regional carriers, and the plan to privatize the ATC system, formerly a key provision of the proposed FAA reauthorization process. Bill Shuster (R-Pennsylvania), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, announced after the conclusion of the hearing that the provision to privatize ATC would be dropped from the reauthorization legislation, HR 2997, aka the 21st Century AIRR Act.
Capt. Tim Canoll, ALPA president, said his organization would support the reauthorization act whether or not it includes ATC privatization.
Also in attendance were family members of the victims of the 2009 Colgan Air Flight 3407 accident in Buffalo, a crash that led to increasing minimum flight time requirements for airline pilots. Responding to recent moves to loosen those rules, ALPA stated in prepared testimony, “We urge the committee to reject any proposal to modify or change, that weakens the current first officer minimum qualifications.”
With expanded recorder use on the NTSB’s Most Wanted List of safety initiatives, John DeLisi, director of its Office of Aviation Safety, told Congress his agency supports mandating “low-cost, lightweight data recorders” for Part 135 operators. It also recommends flight data recorders in Part 121 operations maintain 25 hours of data, rather than the current two hours, which he said is insufficient to investigate incidents that don’t result in an accident, but nonetheless are of concern. The NTSB also supports the use of cockpit cameras. “Some questions can only be answered through data provided by an image recorder,” DeLisi said, and they are needed to “establish effective safety management strategies.”
Asked the FAA’s views on recorders, Bahrami said the agency “would like to see as much information as possible. Visual recording is one of those tools.” But he noted that, historically, cameras in the cockpit have been “quite controversial,” and the issue would require careful deliberation before the FAA mandated any such deployment.