U.S. lawmakers set to approve FAA reforms after Boeing 737 MAX crashes -sources

FILE PHOTO: A Boeing 737 MAX 7 aircraft piloted by Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Chief Steve Dickson lands during an evaluation flight at Boeing Field in Seattle, Washington, U.S. September 30, 2020. REUTERS/Lindsey Wasson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. lawmakers will include landmark reforms to how the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certifies new airplanes in the wake of two fatal Boeing 737 MAX crashes as part of a massive year-end legislative package set to be voted on as early as Monday, four congressional aides briefed on the matter said.

Aides said the language would boost FAA oversight of aircraft manufacturers, require disclosure of safety-critical information and provide new whistleblower protections.

The measure repeals the industry’s authority to self-certify new airplanes and creates new safety reporting channels for FAA employees.

The reforms aim to address shortfalls exposed by the two 737 MAX crashes in five months that killed 346 people and led to plane’s worldwide grounding for 20 months.

The legislation, intended to be included in a COVID-19 relief package, is expected to require that an expert review panel evaluate Boeing’s safety culture. Boeing and the FAA have declined to comment.

The moves include increasing civil penalties, providing resources for the FAA to build highly qualified staff and requiring reviews of pilot-training standards.

On Nov. 18, the Senate Commerce Committee unanimously passed a bill to reform how the FAA certifies new airplanes. The U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed a similar bill the same week.

On Friday, Senate Commerce Republicans released a 102-page report that found Boeing officials “inappropriately coached” test pilots during recertification efforts for the MAX.

The committee said it appeared FAA and Boeing officials “were attempting to cover up important information that may have contributed to the 737 MAX tragedies.”

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