By CHRISTOPHER CONKEY
July 23, 2008
WASHINGTON — The House passed legislation that would overhaul the Federal Aviation Administration’s approach to airline safety, following disclosures of lax oversight by agency inspectors.
The bill would force the FAA to adopt two safety recommendations it has resisted in recent weeks: periodically rotating supervisory inspectors to ensure they don’t get cozy with airlines, and establishing an independent group to examine safety concerns raised by FAA employees.
The two proposals have been a source of conflict between the FAA and the Department of Transportation’s inspector general, Calvin Scovel, who suggested the reforms and has already persuaded FAA officials to make several other changes.
Action now moves to the Senate, where similar provisions have been introduced. Meanwhile, Mr. Scovel will continue to press Acting FAA Administrator Robert Sturgell to adopt the recommendations while the Senate deliberates.
The debate follows disclosures that FAA managers last year allowed Southwest Airlines Co. to fly 46 planes that were overdue for mandatory inspections. Investigations revealed the agency failed to respond to maintenance inspectors who raised complaints about the Southwest incident.
Rep. James Oberstar (D., Minn.), chairman of the House Transportation Committee and co-sponsor of the bill that cleared the chamber, described the legislation as a first step “in reversing the complacency over safety regulation that has set in at the highest levels of the” FAA. Mr. Oberstar said he expects other legislation to emerge after investigations under way by Congress, the FAA and the inspector general conclude.
An FAA representative couldn’t be reached for comment. The agency has previously adopted one of the House bill’s provisions: requiring a two-year “cooling off” period for FAA inspectors who leave to take jobs with airlines they used to oversee.
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Source: WALL STREET JOURNAL