May 15, 2019

Duckworth Presses FAA Administrator Nominee Dickson to Preserve and Strengthen Critical Airline Safety Protections


[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) today pressed Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Administrator Nominee Stephen Dickson to commit to upholding critical airline safety standards that Duckworth has strongly advocated for, such as Pilot Certification and Qualification Requirements (commonly referred to as the “1,500 Hour Rule”) that ensures pilots receive necessary training before piloting commercial aircraft, as well as Flight Crew Duty and Rest Requirements that address pilot fatigue. Dickson responded by agreeing with Duckworth that the safety benefits of the 1,500 Hour Rule are unquestioned and committing to ensuring that the pilot fatigue standards are implemented. Video of the exchange from today’s hearing in the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, & Transportation is available here.

“Recent fatal crashes shook the American public’s confidence in the safety of the commercial aviation system, and the next FAA leader must demonstrate independence in preserving existing safety standards and advancing meaningful reforms,” Duckworth said. “Our nation developed the safest aviation system in the world by investing significant time and resources into enhancing our safety standards instead of simply accepting deadly crashes as the cost of doing business. If confirmed, I hope Mr. Dickson will work with me to address our national safety challenges, including strengthening the Flight Standardization Board, so that we prevent needless tragedies from happening in the first place.”

Duckworth expressed alarm over the FAA Flight Standardization Board’s (FSB) initial failure in evaluating the differences between the 737 MAX series aircraft and the previous series, noting this glaring deficiency represents a warning that the entire FSB evaluation process may be plagued with critical weaknesses. Mr. Dickson pledged to work with Duckworth to strengthen and reform the FSB if ongoing independent investigations determine that the initial FSB evaluations were flawed. Duckworth also voiced opposition to the privatization of air traffic controllers, which was rejected by a bipartisan majority last Congress during consideration of the FAA Reauthorization Act.

Last Congress, Duckworth, a general aviation pilot, led her colleagues in successfully defeating a proposal to weaken the 1,500 hour rule during committee consideration of the FAA reauthorization bill. At the time, Duckworth gave a passionate speech reminding her colleagues that pilots often say the 1,500 hour rule was “written in blood.” An amendment to weaken this rule was eventually dropped from the bill. While more than 1,100 passengers died in airline accidents in the 20 years prior to the implementation of this the 1,500 rule, just one passenger has died since the rule’s implementation in 2010.