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Sen. Cruz Questions FAA Administrator Nominee Stephen Dickson

May 15, 2019

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202-228-7561

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), chairman of the Subcommittee on Aviation and Space, today participated in a U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation hearing on the nomination of Stephen Dickson to be Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

During his line of questioning and in light of the Ethiopian Airlines and Lion Air Flight crashes, Sen. Cruz asked Mr. Dickson to commit to determining what went wrong, and whether or not the crashes could have been prevented.

Sen. Cruz: "I agree with what you said a minute ago about not jumping to conclusions. At the same time, if you are confirmed, getting to the FAA, the easiest thing to do will be to do nothing. Bureaucratic inertia is powerful. And the natural instincts of any agency is protect itself, protect the status quo, and admit no wrongdoing. And so what I'm asking you to do if you're confirmed is be pissed off that 346 people died. That is not a small matter, 346 lives that were snuffed out. And at least the early evidence suggests that was preventable, and not just those lives that are no longer with us. But millions of Americans, millions of people all across the world get on planes every day. [...] Billions in commerce travels on the aviation industry. All of that depends upon the confidence of the flying public that the planes they're getting on are safe. And so Mr. Dickson I would ask you not to give into the natural bureaucratic reaction that defends what happens, but instead ask seriously and vigorously, ‘Could we have prevented these crashes? And what can we do to make sure we don't see another one because of agency mistakes or because of the risk of ‘agency capture?'"

Mr. Stephen M. Dickson: "Well Senator thank you for raising that issue. Please do not interpret my demeanor as satisfied with this situation or in any way saying that any accident is acceptable. It is not. And, if I am confirmed I promise you, I'm going be the captain of the ship. I'll be a steady hand on the tiller. Which I think is what the American public needs. But that doesn't mean that I'm not going be asking the tough questions, and making the changes that need to be made."

Sen. Cruz: "And will you commit to this committee to vigorously figure out what the hell went wrong?"

Mr. Stephen M. Dickson: "Absolutely."

Sen. Cruz's full line of questioning may be viewed here and below:

Sen. Cruz: "The FAA has long been referred to as the ‘gold standard for aviation safety,' and I believe the events surrounding the certification and crashes of the 737 MAXs have drawn that reputation into serious question. The Wall Street Journal article from yesterday contains many dismaying reports. It begins by saying: ‘An internal Federal Aviation Administration review has tentatively determined that senior agency officials didn't participate in or monitor critical safety assessments of a flight-control system for Boeing's 737 MAX jet later implicated in two fatal crashes, according to industry and government officials.' It goes on to say: ‘the certification process for the 737 MAX, Boeing didn't flag the automated stall-prevention feature as a system whose malfunction or failure could cause a catastrophic event.' And the article later raises the very simple question: ‘Also at issue is whether agency officials performed any assessment on their own about the system's initial safety classification.' That suggests a serious breakdown in the certification process.

"The Department of Transportation Inspector General has previously raised the concern of ‘agency capture.' Do you agree that these reports suggest the possibility of serious breakdown? And what should be done to fix it?"

Mr. Stephen M. Dickson: "Well thank you for the question Senator. I again -- the reporting externally it's hard to tell exactly when some of these things happened and exactly how they occurred. But I can commit to you that if I am confirmed, I will be looking into this very specifically. And the group -- the review processes, including the Inspector General, including the Special Committee, the Joint Authorities Technical Review, and the Technical Advisory Board, all of that will form the basis of actions in addition to my own diligence within the agency to make sure that any adjustments are made to the process that need to be made. Again, the highest priority is always going to be safety for the traveling public. Whether its within the U.S. or aviation products around the world."

Sen. Cruz: "I agree with what you said a minute ago about not jumping to conclusions. At the same time, if you are confirmed, getting to the FAA, the easiest thing to do will be to do nothing. Bureaucratic inertia is powerful. And the natural instincts of any agency is protect itself, protect the status quo, and admit no wrongdoing. And so what I'm asking you to do if you're confirmed, is be pissed off that 346 people died. That is not a small matter, 346 lives that were snuffed out. And at least the early evidence suggests that was preventable, and not just those lives that are no longer with us. But millions of Americans, millions of people all across the world get on planes every day. [...] Billions in commerce travels on the aviation industry. All of that depends upon the confidence of the flying public that the planes they're getting on are safe. So Mr. Dickson I would ask you not to give into the natural bureaucratic reaction that defends what happens, but instead ask seriously and vigorously, ‘Could we have prevented these crashes? And what can we do to make sure we don't see another one because of agency mistakes or because of the risk of ‘agency capture?'"

Mr. Stephen M. Dickson: "Well Senator thank you for raising that issue. Please do not interpret my demeanor as satisfied with this situation or in any way saying that any accident is acceptable. It is not. And, if I am confirmed I promise you, I'm going be the captain of the ship. I'll be a steady hand on the tiller. Which I think is what the American public needs. But that doesn't mean that I'm not going be asking the tough questions, and making the changes that need to be made."

Sen. Cruz: "And will you commit to this committee to vigorously figure out what the hell went wrong?"

Mr. Stephen M. Dickson: "Absolutely."

Sen. Cruz: "Thank you."

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