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FAA Defends Safety Certification Practices to Senate

FILE - A Garuda Boeing 737 Max 8 airplane is parked at the Garuda Maintenance Facility AeroAsia, at Soekarno-Hatta International airport near Jakarta, Indonesia, March 13, 2019.

Federal regulators Wednesday defended the practice of letting aircraft builders certify the safety of their own planes.

The Senate called Wednesday's hearing following the deadly crashes of two Boeing 737 MAX 8 jets because of suspected problems with anti-stall software.

The head of the Federal Aviation Administration, Daniel Elwell, told the panel the agency would need another $1.8 billion a year and 10,000 new employees to do all the work now farmed out to aircraft workers.

He reminded the senators that those employees who certify the safety of the airplanes that they build themselves are specially chosen and supervised by the FAA.

Elwell said the fact that out of millions of commercial flights, there has been just one airline death in the United States in the past 10 years is "part of the fabric of what we have used to become as safe as we are today."

But Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut said letting companies that build the planes certify them as safe is putting "the fox in charge of the henhouse."

"The fact is that the FAA decided to do safety on the cheap, which is neither safe nor cheap," he said.

Texas Republican Ted Cruz, who called Wednesday’s hearing, said there has been concern about what he says is the closeness between the FAA and Boeing, the Chicago-based manufacturer who builds the 737 MAX.

Boeing said Wednesday it does not need and does not want any more federal regulation on how it designs, builds, and tests planes.