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At a hearing focused on addressing concerns about air travel safety, members of the House Aviation Committee from the Republican party directed accusations at FAA Administrator Michael Whitaker regarding “unlawful foreign nationals” sleeping at airports, expressed grievances about work from home policies, and made a mention of Taylor Swift’s “supersonic jet.”
According to Mr. Whitaker’s statement to legislators, there has been an increase in aviation safety incidents over the past year. One noteworthy incident occurred on January 5th when a door blew off of an Alaska AirBoeing 737 MAX 9. Additionally, there have been multiple “near miss” incidents involving planes during landing and concerns about a shortage of pilots and air traffic controllers to ensure safe air operations.
The hearing occurred shortly before the NTSB published its initial findings on the mishap during the Alaska Air flight.
The majority of the House Aviation Committee appeared focused on discussing safety concerns with Mr. Whitaker and calling for Boeing’s responsibility to be upheld. However, a small number of members seized the chance to bring up recent Fox News headlines and voice their unrelated complaints.
Pennsylvania’s Republican representative Scott Perry used his allotted time to inquire about the presence of “illegal foreign nationals” at airports. He referenced FAA rules stating that airports should not be used for non-aeronautical purposes, and questioned whether Mr. Whitaker was aware of any airports that had sought permission to house migrants temporarily.
Mr. Whitaker acknowledged the existence of one exception, but mentioned that the non-aeronautical use rules could be altered on a case-by-case basis upon request.
“The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) does review and approve requests for community use, regardless of the specific category. There are numerous categories for community use available. Our main consideration is whether the proposed use will interfere with aeronautical activities or cause any disruptions.”
In the final month of January, Fox News aired reports claiming that migrants were being temporarily housed in concealed rooms at airports.
During the hearing, Republican Representative Troy Nehls from Texas expressed disagreement with a letter sent by the FAA to Congress that opposed increasing the retirement age of pilots from 65 to 67. The letter requested additional data to be provided on the potential consequences of this change before considering raising the retirement age.
According to Mr. Nehls, the union for Air Line Pilots Association, which does not support increasing the age limit, is receiving payments from Canadian pilots over the age of 65. He argues that this serves as a real-life example that supports the idea of raising the retirement age.
According to him, elderly Canadian pilots and American pilots were both utilizing the same runways. He also made a strange statement that Taylor Swift, flying to the Super Bowl in her supersonic jet, was one of them.
After Mr. Nehl’s allotted time had ended, Committee chairman Garrett Graves stated that he did not think Swift had a supersonic jet in their possession.
Mr. Nehls expressed dissatisfaction with the fact that the FAA permits certain employees to primarily work from home, with a requirement of only four days in the office every two weeks. He questioned whether having air traffic controllers working in the office for only two days per week would create problems for the airline.
Mr. Whitaker seemed unsure about the question and stated that air traffic controllers are unable to work remotely. However, Mr. Nehls continued to press the issue until Mr. Whitaker eventually conceded that air traffic controllers are indeed unable to work from home.
Congressman Jefferson Van Drew strongly criticized “globalization,” the “green economy,” and insinuated that Boeing’s quality control problems were being masked by its implementation of DEI initiatives.
In my opinion, Boeing has concealed its decline by using diversity, equity, and inclusion as a marketing strategy to attract investors, as it is seen as socially desirable. This combination of globalization and social manipulation is not appropriate, as the top priority should be ensuring safety. According to him, Boeing is currently facing challenges in producing aircraft that meet safety standards.
Mr. Whitaker discussed various topics, including immigration and “social conditioning,” while also addressing the FAA’s efforts to hold companies like Boeing accountable and prevent future incidents.
The committee was informed by him that the FAA is completely utilizing all available spots at their air traffic control training school in Oklahoma City. Additionally, the agency has commenced training a higher number of candidates at various aeronautical colleges across the nation.
According to Mr. Whitaker, the FAA plans to replicate the training given to air traffic control candidates in Oklahoma City at other colleges. He also mentioned that the agency is working to provide these schools with resources such as flight and control tower simulators.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has placed inspectors within Boeing’s manufacturing facilities to monitor their quality assurance practices and facilitate communication between the agency and Boeing employees.
Mr. Whitaker stated that the FAA has established a system for whistleblowers in Boeing and other companies in the aviation industry to report any incidents. He also mentioned that the FAA has been in communication with employees in the manufacturing sector.
The committee expressed their dissatisfaction with the delay in the Senate for passing the FAA Authorization Bill that was already approved by the House. Mr. Graves emphasized that the bill addresses all safety concerns raised by Congress and passing it would address those concerns.
If approved, the bill will grant authorization to the FAA until 2028.