Repost from The Register-Guard, Eugene, OR
[Quote: “When something bad happens, the government will take action — but over time those regulations and requirements wind up being dropped, reduced or delayed. The 2017 fatal Amtrak derailment near Tacoma, the 2016 oil train derailment in the Columbia River Gorge, the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, the 2008 financial crisis and countless other events could have been prevented.”]
Deregulating? DeFazio’s watchingPosted Mar 27, 2019 at 12:01 AM
The Boeing 737 jet crashes raise troubling questions that go far beyond one company’s safety record and one federal agency’s watchdog role.
The history of the Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft suggests it is an example of how the government’s regulation-and-oversight pendulum has swung too far. The Federal Aviation Administration has lacked both the money and the inclination to adequately oversee aircraft development, instead relying heavily on companies to do their own testing.
Oregon Rep. Peter DeFazio is demanding answers. The Springfield Democrat chairs the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. The committee’s investigative staff is doing research, and DeFazio then plans to hold hearings.
“This is really, really raising questions about the FAA as a watchdog,” he said in a meeting with The Register-Guard editorial board.
A faulty sensor is being investigated as one cause, and Boeing is working on a software fix. The two-sensor system was developed as a safety feature to prevent a plane from stalling. But it appears the failure of just one sensor can send the aircraft into a powerful, possibly irreversible dive unless the pilots override the system within 40 seconds, according to a New York Times report this week.
DeFazio promises a tenacious investigation. Among the questions are why the system was designed this way, whether the aircraft was unsafely rushed to market, and why the FAA and Boeing did not require extensive retraining of pilots.
“This is the first time Boeing has put in a system that took over the plane automatically,” he said. “And they didn’t think they needed to tell people about it — because it’s different from any other Boeing plane ever made?
“Obviously, maybe not the best idea.”
For years, the FAA has lacked sufficient inspectors and has outsourced much of that responsibility to the manufacturers. But the FAA is not unique. We now have a government that relies on the honor, integrity and self-supervision of the industries it regulates.
When something bad happens, the government will take action — but over time those regulations and requirements wind up being dropped, reduced or delayed. The 2017 fatal Amtrak derailment near Tacoma, the 2016 oil train derailment in the Columbia River Gorge, the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, the 2008 financial crisis and countless other events could have been prevented.
“It’s repeated time and time again,” DeFazio said. “There are limits to deregulation, which in many cases have been exceeded.”
Oregon has its own history of unwatchful eyes. The Cover Oregon health insurance fiasco could have been averted through closer, more-knowledgeable oversight and insistence on stronger testing of the technology throughout its development. Better oversight — not to mention much-better planning in the first place — might have saved the state from wasting millions of dollars in the Highway 20 reconstruction between the valley and the coast.
Each time, government and the public vow to learn from these lessons. Then we relax and we forget.
When DeFazio and his congressional colleagues find the answers they are seeking, our government should heed them.
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