WASHINGTON, DC (NEXSTAR) — On the same day the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration cleared Boeing’s 737 Max for takeoff again, senators advanced legislation they have been working on since the deadly crashes that first grounded the airplanes nearly two years ago.
The bill changes how the FAA certifies new planes, shares information after fatal crashes and protects whistleblowers.
“This bill is the product of many months of hard work and will be a great step toward aviation safety,” said Sen. Roger Wicker, R-MS, the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee.
Wicker and Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-WA, the committee’s ranking member, focused on the core issues of the crashes: lax oversight and a rush to implement a new software system.
“Cutting corners is not an option,” Cantwell said.
Their legislation would require more oversight and safety assessments throughout the FAA and manufacturers like Boeing.
“In aviation, we have to meet the highest safety standards,” Cantwell said. “It’s not optional. It’s mandatory.”
The committee voted unanimously to advance the bill to the full Senate, but some senators still had reservations.
“More can and should be done,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-CT.
Blumenthal tried to include more consumer protections.
“To ensure that Boeing and other aviation manufacturers are held accountable and are barred from hiding behind the FAA certification process,” he said.
The House passed similar legislation this week that Blumenthal said he preferred.
While lawmakers race against the clock to pass something before the end of the year, consumers will have to weigh their options with the 737 plane.
“I would put my own family on it,” said FAA Administrator Stephen Dickson.
Dickson said future tragedies are now impossible, but families of the crash victims aren’t convinced.
“Avoid the Max. Don’t fly on it,” said Michael Stumo, who lost his daughter. “If you see the equipment you’re going to be flying on as this Boeing 737 Max 8, change your booking and fly another plane.”
U.S. airlines will fly the nearly thousand Max jets produced once Boeing updates software and pilots receive training.