SPEAKERS CONTENTS INSERTS
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ONE YEAR AFTER VALUJET CRASH: FAA RESPONSE TO HAZMAT AND CARGO FIRE PROTECTION ISSUES
PLEASE NOTE: The following transcript is a portion of the official hearing record of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. Additional material pertinent to this transcript may be found on the web site of the Committee at [http://www.house.gov/transportation]. Complete hearing records are available for review at the Committee offices and also may be purchased at the U.S. Government Printing Office.
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TRANSPORTATION AND INFRASTRUCTURE
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED FIFTH CONGRESS
MAY 15, 1997
Printed for the use of the
Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
COMMITTEE ON TRANSPORTATION AND INFRASTUCTURE
BUD SHUSTER, Pennsylvania, Chairman
DON YOUNG, Alaska
THOMAS E. PETRI, Wisconsin
SHERWOOD L. BOEHLERT, New York
HERBERT H. BATEMAN, Virginia
HOWARD COBLE, North Carolina
JOHN J. DUNCAN, Jr., Tennessee
Page 3 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCTHOMAS W. EWING, Illinois
WAYNE T. GILCHREST, Maryland
JAY KIM, California
STEPHEN HORN, California
BOB FRANKS, New Jersey
JOHN L. MICA, Florida
JACK QUINN, New York
TILLIE K. FOWLER, Florida
VERNON J. EHLERS, Michigan
SPENCER BACHUS, Alabama
STEVEN C. LaTOURETTE, Ohio
SUE W. KELLY, New York
RAY LaHOOD, Illinois
RICHARD H. BAKER, Louisiana
FRANK RIGGS, California
CHARLES F. BASS, New Hampshire
ROBERT W. NEY, Ohio
JACK METCALF, Washington
JO ANN EMERSON, Missouri
EDWARD A. PEASE, Indiana
ROY BLUNT, Missouri
JOSEPH R. PITTS, Pennsylvania
ASA HUTCHINSON, Arkansas
MERRILL COOK, Utah
JOHN COOKSEY, Louisiana
Page 4 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCJOHN R. THUNE, South Dakota
CHARLES W. ''CHIP'' PICKERING, Jr., Mississippi
KAY GRANGER, Texas
JON D. FOX, Pennsylvania
THOMAS M. DAVIS, Virginia
FRANK A. LoBIONDO, New Jersey
J.C. WATTS, Jr., Oklahoma
JERRY MORAN, Kansas
VITO FOSSELLA, New York
JAMES L. OBERSTAR, Minnesota
NICK J. RAHALL II, West Virginia
ROBERT A. BORSKI, Pennsylvania
WILLIAM O. LIPINSKI, Illinois
ROBERT E. WISE, Jr., West Virginia
JAMES A. TRAFICANT, Jr., Ohio
PETER A. DeFAZIO, Oregon
BOB CLEMENT, Tennessee
JERRY F. COSTELLO, Illinois
GLENN POSHARD, Illinois
ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON, District of Columbia
JERROLD NADLER, New York
PAT DANNER, Missouri
ROBERT MENENDEZ, New Jersey
JAMES E. CLYBURN, South Carolina
Page 5 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCCORRINE BROWN, Florida
JAMES A. BARCIA, Michigan
BOB FILNER, California
EDDIE BERNICE JOHNSON, Texas
FRANK MASCARA, Pennsylvania
GENE TAYLOR, Mississippi
JUANITA MILLENDER-McDONALD, California
ELIJAH E. CUMMINGS, Maryland
EARL BLUMENAUER, Oregon
MAX SANDLIN, Texas
ELLEN O. TAUSCHER, California
BILL PASCRELL, Jr., New Jersey
JAY W. JOHNSON, Wisconsin
LEONARD L. BOSWELL, Iowa
JAMES P. McGOVERN, Massachusetts
TIM HOLDEN, Pennsylvania
NICK LAMPSON, Texas
Subcommittee on Aviation
JOHN J. DUNCAN, Jr., Tennessee, Chairman
ROY BLUNT, Missouri Vice Chairman
THOMAS W. EWING, Illinois
VERNON J. EHLERS, Michigan
Page 6 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCRAY LaHOOD, Illinois
CHARLES F. BASS, New Hampshire
JACK METCALF, Washington
EDWARD A. PEASE, Indiana
JOSEPH R. PITTS, Pennsylvania
ASA HUTCHINSON, Arkansas
MERRILL COOK, Utah
JOHN COOKSEY, Louisiana
CHARLES W. ''CHIP'' PICKERING, Jr., Mississippi
KAY GRANGER, Texas
JON D. FOX, Pennsylvania
THOMAS M. DAVIS, Virginia
J.C. WATTS, Jr., Oklahoma
BUD SHUSTER, Pennsylvania
WILLIAM O. LIPINSKI, Illinois
LEONARD L. BOSWELL, Iowa
GLENN POSHARD, Illinois
NICK J. RAHALL II, West Virginia
JAMES A. TRAFICANT, Jr., Ohio
PETER A. DeFAZIO, Oregon
JERRY F. COSTELLO, Illinois
PAT DANNER, Missouri
JAMES E. CLYBURN, South Carolina
Page 7 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCCORRINE BROWN, Florida
EDDIE BERNICE JOHNSON, Texas
JUANITA MILLENDER-McDONALD, California
ELIJAH E. CUMMINGS, Maryland
JAMES L. OBERSTAR, Minnesota
Haase, Captain David J., Executive Central Air Safety Chairman, Air Line Pilots Association
Hall, James, Chairman, National Transportation Safety Board, accompanied by Robert Chipkevich, Chief, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Division, Peter Goelz, Director, Office of Governmental and Public Affairs, and Gregory A. Feith, Senior Air Safety Investigator, Major Aviation Investigations
Meenan, John, Vice President, Policy and Planning, Air Transport Association of America
Quirk, Dennis M., Vice President, Cease-Fire Midwest, Inc
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Sawyer, Lee Hamilton, Relative of ValuJet Flight 592 Victim, accompanied by Laura Candace Sawyer, Daughter
Valentine, Barry, Acting Administrator, Federal Aviation Administration, accompanied by Alan I. Roberts, Associate Administrator for Hazardous Materials Safety, Transportation, Research and Special Programs Administration, Guy S. Gardner, Associate Administrator for Regulation and Certification, and Admiral Cathal Flynn, Associate Administrator for Civil Aviation Security
PREPARED STATEMENT SUBMITTED BY A MEMBER OF CONGRESS
Costello, Hon. Jerry F., of Illinois
Cramer, Hon. Bud, of Alabama
Lipinski, Hon. William O., of Illinois
Millender-McDonald, Hon. Juanita, of California
Poshard, Hon. Glenn, of Illinois
PREPARED STATEMENTS SUBMITTED BY WITNESSES
Haase, Captain David J
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Quirk, Dennis M
Sawyer, Lee Hamilton
SUBMISSIONS FOR THE RECORD
Hall, James, Chairman, National Transportation Safety Board, correspondence with Carol Hallett, President, Air Transport Association of America, and Rodney E. Slater, Secretary, U.S. Department of Transportation
Haase, Captain David J., Executive Central Air Safety Chairman, Air Line Pilots Association, Position Paper from Recent Aircraft Accidents Involving: Hazardous Materials, Cargo/Baggage Compartments, Smoke/Fire Management
Shuster, Hon. Bud, a Representative in Congress from Pennsylvania, and Chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure, letters from families
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ADDITIONS TO THE RECORD
Cummock, Victoria, President, Families of Pan-Am 103 Lockerbie, statement
Dressler, Capt. Andre A., Chairman, Engineering and Technology Committee, Independent Pilots Association, statement
Nelson, Gene A. Nelson, Ph.D., Biometrics Company, statement
FAA News, glossary
Werjefelt, Bert, President, Vision Safe Corporation, letter to Rep. Duncan, May 9, 1997 and letter to James Hall, Chairman, National Transportation Safety Board, December 30, 1996
FAA News, Fact Sheet: FAA Actions Regarding ValuJet, May 6, 1997
FAA News, Aviation Safety Improvements in the Past Year, May 6, 1997
Air Transport Association News, Installation of Cargo Hold Fire Detectors Announced, December 12, 1996
Hall, Jim, Chairman, National Transportation Safety Board, Safety Recommendation to David R. Hinson, Administrator, Federal Aviation Administration, May 31, 1996
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Nichols, Mary D., Assistant Administrator for Air and Radiation, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, letter, May 8, 1997
Jordan, Lewis H., Chairman, ValuJet, letter, May 14, 1997
Hallett, Carol B., President and CEO, Air Transport Association, letter, May 14, 1997
DeCarli, Raymond, Associate Deputy Inspector General, letter, May 8, 1997
Hallett, Carol B., President and CEO, Air Transport Association, letter, May 19, 1997
Meenan, John M., Air Transport Association, letter, May 27, 1997
Valentine, Barry, Acting Administrator, Federal Aviation Administration, letters, June 18, and July 25, 1997
De Felipe, Carlos L., letter, July 14, 1997
FAA Investigating Alleged Illegal Shipment of Oxygen Generators, July 29, 1997
Page 12 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCFact Sheet: Installation of Fire Detection and Suppression Systems, August 14, 1997
New Safety Rules to be Designed for Aircraft Cargo Compartments, November 14, 1996
FAA Proposes Fine Against Bath and Body Works for Hazardous Materials Violations, December 19, 1997
ValuJet Airlines Completes Testing of Smoke Detection System, FAA Grants Provisional Supplemental Type Certificate (STC#ST01455AT)
Letters concerning supplemental oxygen for passengers
Meenan, John M., Air Transport Association, letter, June 16, 1997
Lipinski, Hon. William O., Ranking Member, and Hon. John J. Duncan, Jr., Chairman, Aviation Subcommittee, letter to James F. Hinchman, Acting Comptroller General, U.S. General Accounting Office, July 30, 1997
U.S. General Accounting Office, report, Aviation Safety: Installation of Smoke Detection and Fire Suppression Systems in U.S. Transport Aircraft, December 19, 1997
Aircraft Cargo Hold Smoke Detection and Fire Suppression, information to supplement December 11, briefing
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ONE YEAR AFTER VALUJET CRASH: FAA RESPONSE TO HAZMAT AND CARGO FIRE PROTECTION ISSUES
THURSDAY, MAY 15, 1997
U.S. House of Representatives,
Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure,
Subcommittee on Aviation,
The subcommittee met, pursuant to notice, at 9:30 a.m. in room 2167, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. John J. Duncan, Jr. (chairman of the subcommittee) presiding.
Mr. DUNCAN. We'll go ahead and call the subcommittee to order.
I want to welcome all of the witnesses who are here with us this morning, and I thank each of you for taking time out of what I know are very busy schedules to be here with us for a very important and what I believe will be a very informative and helpful hearing this morning.
This may be the first of several hearings regarding safety actions taken to address several issues raised by last year's ValuJet Flight 592 tragedy.
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Today we will revisit matters that have been the subject of much media coverage and of ongoing concern to this subcommittee, and that is the safety issues involving hazardous materials and cargo fire protection on commercial carriers.
First of all, I think it is always worth repeating that airline travel, and particularly U.S. air travel, is remarkably, even unbelievably safe. And let me say with respect to ValuJet that I believe, with all of the additional scrutiny by the FAA and others, that ValuJet is certainly one of the safest airlines flying today.
Although the ValuJet investigation is still ongoing, it is becoming more apparent or has already become apparent that the airline was not primarily at fault in that terrible tragedy that occurred last year. From what we know today, it was not a mechanical problem that caused the crash; it was the mislabeling of uncapped oxygen canisters that started or fueled the fire in the cargo hold.
We've seen again just 2 days ago that these hazardous canisters are still being placed in cargo holds.
It is our job, as the subcommittee responsible for Congressional oversight of U.S. aviation, to ensure that action is taken to prevent such tragedies as occurred in the ValuJet crash from ever happening again, and it is the FAA's responsibility to enforce these actions.
There were obviously several safety issues raised by the ValuJet crash. Two that have been the focus of much attention, which we will discuss this morning, are the issues of cargo hold fires and the transportation of hazardous materials.
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After several fires aboard aircraft and well before the ValuJet accident, the NTSB had recommended that a fire detection system be required in aircraft cargo holds. However, the FAA decided not to accept the recommendation. Instead, the FAA felt it was enough to seal the cargo holds and thereby smother any fire that might occur.
Sealing oxygen out of the cargo hold may work to suppress a fire in most cases, but, as we now know, this is not entirely true when oxygen generators are placed in these holds.
The FAA has now decided that smoke detectors and fire suppression systems should be placed in cargo holds. In fact, the agency issued a press release in November announcing that they would issue a rule on this, but as of this morning they have not actually issued the rule or proposed a rule, so the subcommittee is concerned about this.
The airlines also announced last December that they would voluntarily install smoke detectors in their cargo holds, but it is my understanding that not a great deal of progress has been made on this thus far.
So I think it is accurate to say that airline passengers have really no more protection from cargo fires than they had a year ago before the ValuJet accident. However, since we announced this hearing a few weeks ago, there has been a good deal of activity, not only in the media but at the FAA and among the airlines.
Mr. Valentine mentioned to me yesterday that the FAA would make a major announcement this morning. Hopefully we will hear today a renewed commitment to get on with this task and do it as quickly as possible. I'm optimistic that this will be the case and the subcommittee looks forward to this announcement.
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With respect to hazardous materials, actions have been taken by the Department of Transportation to ban oxygen generators from the cargo holds of passenger planes. However, the subcommittee still has questions about how airline employees are trained in handling hazardous cargo.
ValuJet was and is a ''will-not-carry'' airline, meaning that it will not carry hazardous materials. Unfortunately, its employees did not recognize that the oxygen generators were hazardous. This apparently was because the company, SabreTech, had mislabeled the oxygen canisters as company material, as was explained in the briefing that was submittedthe briefing memo that was submitted to all the Members.
And so, once again, I will say it looks like another company besides ValuJet was primarily at fault for that accident, but we do need to have better training of these employees.
We have memos from FAA inspectors indicating confusion in the ranks over whether airline employees must be trained in the recognition of hazardous materials, so another purpose of this hearing today is to clarify FAA's policy on hazardous materials recognition training and to make sure that FAA inspectors are enforcing them.
I would like at this time now to recognize the ranking member of the subcommittee, Mr. Lipinski, for any comments he has at this time.
Mr. LIPINSKI. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
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I have a formal statement that I would like to place in the record, but I do want to say at this particular time I think it's wonderful what a letter from the National Transportation Safety Board chairman made public in a hearing pertaining to the ValuJet situation and detection and suppression equipment for fires on airliners will do.
I was delighted to hear what the ATA had to say yesterday. I am sure I will be very happy to hear what the FAA has to say today. I just hope that I will be perfectly happy and that the timeframe on the detection equipment and the suppression equipment will be in the best interest of the American flying public.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you, Mr. Lipinski.
[Mr. Lipinski's prepared statement follows:]
Mr. DUNCAN. Mr. Oberstar?
Mr. OBERSTAR. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
I will compliment you on revisiting the subject of the carriage of HAZMAT hazardous materials on board aircraft and the regulatory framework within which that must take place as a follow-up to our hearings last year on the tragedy involving ValuJet.
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The announcement, as you and Mr. Lipinski both have noted, yesterday by the airlines of actions that they will initiate to respond to the situation is very commendable. I do know from past experience the effectiveness calling a Congressional hearing for announcing a hearing, showing the committee's resolve on behalf of the traveling public, and its purposeful pursuit of a regulatory framework within which actions like this can be corrected and the safety of the public ensured, is the proper role of this committee. It demonstrates once again that sunlight is the best cure for most illnesses.
Just over a year go, May 11, 1996, ValuJet 592 carrying 110 people crashed into the Florida Everglades. The Nation was riveted to the scene, to the rescue mission, and to the tragedy of the families who were survivors of those victims.
In the aftermath of the tragedy, there was intense focus on the safety of low-cost, new-entrant carriers and on ValuJet itself, and its maintenance practices, in particular.
But, despite the highly-publicized FAA investigation of ValuJet that resulted in a temporary grounding of the fleet of that carrier, the National Transportation Safety Board investigation focused not on the operating practices but on the contents of the aircraft's cargo hold.
What became evident over the course of that investigation and over the ensuing year is that the oxygen-generating containerscanisters, as they are calledthat provided oxygen for passengers in case of emergency decompression on board an aircraft, those canisters were mistakenly believed to be empty. They were improperly packaged, mislabeled, and loaded, worst of all, with aircraft tires in the cargo hold.
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Despite the recommendation of the NTSB in the aftermath of a 1988 American Airlines similar incident, the FAA did not in May of last year and does not now require fire detection sensors or fire suppression equipment in class D cargo containers.
Justification has been that the class D cargo container has a limited supply of oxygen, and fires require oxygen to burn; therefore, no fire could burn in such a container. And that was not the contention just of the FAA; that was the insistence of the airlines that therefore no detection, no suppression would be necessary and, in any event, it was too costly. That's a constant recurring theme which we have encountered time and again on safety issues undertaken by this committee.
We don't know because there isn't enough evidence, there aren't enough pieces available to know whether detection or suppression would have prevented the result in the ValuJet accident, but we do know that the combination of oxygen and a burning source and continuous source of oxygen to feed that burn caused a highly-combustible situation.
We can speculate that, had all the protective measures been put in place, maybe those lives would have been saved, but, whether they would have been saved or not, there is no excuse for not having the regulatory framework in place, and that is the role of the NTSB to insist on a standard without regard to its cost, for the FAA to decide on actions to be taken in the best public interest, and the airlines to decide whether they want to engender the trust and support of the traveling public by installing the ultimate safety measures aboard their aircraft.
ValuJet is not the first time FAA had reason to know that the design of the container, alone, could not suppress all fires. The 1988 American Airlines incident resulted in an NTSB recommendation to regulate. The flight crew that was dead heading on board that flight noticed smoke in the cabin of the aircraft, alerted the flight crew, and they were able to land the aircraft safely. But it showed a flaw in the regulatory thinking about this particular type of transport of this particular type of very combustible material.
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In that case, as in ValuJet, mislabeled hazardous materials contributed to the fire. Fortunately, there were no serious injuries in the American Airlines situation.
Now the FAA is poised to issue a notice of proposed rulemaking that would require detection and suppression of fire in class D cargo containers and, of course, the airlines have now responded, faced with the hearing and with that regulatory notice and with the continued pressure of the NTSB.
But the incident shows once again far too long a time has passed between the tragedy, between the warning, between the hearings that highlight the problem, and the awareness of and the availability of a control measure that can protect the traveling public. Far too much time has passed once again.
I would just harken back to ground proximity warning systems on board commuter aircraft. If the Department of Transportation had issued that rulemaking with a 2-year timeframe instead of a 4-year timeframe, 19 people would still be alive in northern Minnesota. Instead, they died in a crash just six miles from my home in Chisholm, Minnesota.
I've taken this podium time and again to insist on a shorter timeframe, move ahead, impose the regulatory framework, take the action because I don't want us to do safety by body count.
I know that it's not well received by the airlines to have to spend money, but I'll tell you in the end it's not the airlines, it's the traveling public who pays the ticket and pays the fare and pays the cost, and they want their loved ones and they want themselves to take off and arrive safely, and that should be the lesson and the message of this hearing. Never again should we have these multi-year timeframes within which regulations are hammered out and dragged out and then either people die or there are tragedies en route to the implementation of that rulemaking.
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Mr. Chairman, you've accomplished something very significant by scheduling this hearing. Mr. Lipinski, I commend both of you for being persistent and following through. The traveling public holds you in high esteem and great appreciation.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you very much, Mr. Oberstar.
We're very fortunate on this subcommittee to have the active and involved participation of the ranking minority member, and we're also extremely fortunate to have the great leadership of the chairman of the full committee, Mr. Shuster. I would like to call on him at this time.
Mr. SHUSTER. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Last June 19, as a result of the ValuJet crash, we held a hearing in this room and the families of the victims came and testified and told us many horror stories of how they had been treated in the aftermath of that tragedy. And I promised to them on that day that we would move legislation to correct that situation, and we did.
We passed out of this committee and off the floor of the House and through the Senate and had signed into law the Family Assistance Act, which did several things.
First, it required that the manifests of the people on board the plane be turned over immediately to the NTSB and it be made available to an outside group such as the Red Cross. And, further, it required that the NTSB and the Red Cross or the outside groups be able to communicate and work with the families of the victims.
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We also provided, because of the atrocious stories we heard of some of the ambulance chasing that took place down there, that there could be no solicitation of the families of the victims for a period ofI believe it was 30 days.
Since that time, since that law has been in effect, we, indeed, have had one crash, the ComAir tragedy in Michigan. My question to you is: how is the Family Assistance Act working? That's the one test we've had of it. What is your sense and what's your reaction to it? Would you care to respond?
Mr. DUNCAN. Mr. Valentine or anyone else who wishes to respond? Mr. Hall perhaps?
Mr. HALL. Yes, sir. Mr. Chairman Shuster, I have with me this morning Mr. Peter Goelz, who I have directed to head the Office of Government Public and Family Affairs at the NTSB. We have actively worked, regrettably, two accidents, one at Quincy, Illinois, and one outside of Detroit, Michiganboth commuter airline accidentssince this act was put in place.
I can report to you, while there were some lessons to learn from those initial operations, the feedback we got from the airlines and the families has been extremely positive. The cooperation, the communicationa lot of the things that this committee heard raised as concerns last year had been addressed by our being there and addressing the concerns of the families.
Page 23 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. SHUSTER. Thank you. Mr. Chairman, we certainly would welcome comments either in writing or verbally from the families, as well. I'm very much interested in hearing at some point what the families have to say about the effectiveness of that act. Thank you.
[The information follows:]
Mr. DUNCAN. We do have a very large number of Members here, and so what I'm going to do is to say that we will put any written statements that Members have into thethey will be made a part of the record of this hearing.
[The prepared statements of Mr. Cramer , Mr. Costello, and Mr. Poshard follow:]
Mr. DUNCAN. Are there any Members who wish to make oral opening statements at this time? Mr. DeFazio?
Mr. DEFAZIO. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I'll be brief in the interest of hearing from them, but I want to thank the chairman, in particular, for holding this hearing.
Page 24 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I find it peculiar that we only have had a flurry of activity around the promises that were made last year regarding fire detection and/or suppression on both the anniversary of the horrible ValuJet tragedy, press scrutiny, and then the scheduling of this hearing. There was an awful lot of activity yesterday. I find it very peculiar.
Just going to some of the earlier remarks, I think that the NTSB has been recommendingI know they've been recommending for 13 years that we put detection in the holds. I have a guy on my staff who is a former mechanic. I said, ''This must be a really big deal, because the airlines say it's going to take 4 or 5 years to do this. They promised to start 5 months ago, but it's so complicated they haven't figured out how to do it yet.'' He laughed. He just laughed. He said, ''You know, this could be done any time a plane is overnight.''
This is a very simple procedure, and the industry is telling us 5 years. Five years. Don't worry, in 5 years we'll have smoke detectors. Let's see, they were only first recommended in 1984.
This is pathetic. The FAA is patheticand I'll pursue that in a line of questioningto go ahead with this voluntarily and then take a year-and-a-half to come up with a rule. And the industry is pathetic for dragging its feet. And the American public isn't going to put up with this any more. Any more needless deaths and we're going to be crucifying some of you people.
Mr. DUNCAN. All right. Thank you very much.
Are there any other Membersare there any Members on our side who wish to make an opening statement at this time? My Clyburn?
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Mr. CLYBURN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Let me thank you for calling this hearing. I do want to just make a brief statement, Mr. Chairman.
I, too, recall the hearing we had last year concerning the ValuJet accident, and I agree with Chairman Shuster that we responded through this committee and the Congress to that with legislation which I would call a part of the proverbial pound of cure. But I learned as a child that an ounce of prevention is what we ought to be focusing on.
We focused last year on legislation, whistleblower legislation, which I thought we had pretty much agreement on here in the committee. All the people who testified seemed to be in favor of it. I spoke with even the management people at ValuJet who seemed to be in favor of that. Yet that legislation got nowhere.
This year we are back again with it. I've decided this year that maybe, in view of the political aspect of things, I'll step back from it. I've asked Mr. Boehlert to forward as the sponsor of that legislation. Still, at last time I checked, we've had about 48 cosponsors.
I am convinced that a lot of what we see and read that's called ''accidental'' could be prevented if people felt protected to the point that there would see some of these accidents and talk about them before they occursome of these incidents and talk about them before they become accidents.
And so, Mr. Chairman, I would hope that, as we go forward with our response to these kinds of incidents, that we would give serious consideration to Mr. Boehlert's whistleblower legislation because I am convinced that it will go a long ways toward establishing some prevention mechanisms for us to deal with in this country.
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Thank you so much, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. DUNCAN. Well, thank you, Mr. Clyburn.
Mr. CUMMINGS. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
I want to join in thanking you and thanking our ranking member for holding this hearing. I think it is extremely important.
As a new member of this subcommittee, it really heartens me to see the bipartisanship effort that we are making to protect the flying public.
Not only is the implementation of fire detection and fire suppression systems on passenger aircraft critical to our present and future air safety, but the lack thereof proved consequential for the 110 people aboard the ValuJet Flight 592.
It is important to keep in mind that failure to detect hazardous material upon that one particular flight has possibly devastated 110 spouses or 220 parents or 330 children due to loss of loved ones, not to mention siblings, grandparents, and friends. Potentially close to 800 or more lives have been destroyed from that one tragic incident, despite three precluding air disasters under similar circumstances. One life injured, one life lost, is one life too many.
Page 27 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Oversight authority of the hazardous materials may need to be shifted. Stricter regulatory guidelines may need to be imposed. Perhaps FAA needs to work more aggressively with airlines to determine a proper fire suppression agent.
Whatever the solution, I know you share my eagerness to prevent any more senseless loss of life as a result of negligence or poor fire detection and suppression.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you, Mr. Cummings.
Ms. JOHNSON OF TEXAS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you for your leadership on this committee.
My concern is that 75 percent of the commercial aircraft planes have no fire suppressant equipment. I'd like the witnesses to address that in terms of the implications and the why's of perhaps why they are not there.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you very much.
Does anyone else have an opening statement that they wish to make?
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Mr. DUNCAN. All right. If not, we'll go ahead and proceed with the witnesses. I previously have welcomed all of the witnesses here, and on the first panel will be Mr. Barry Valentine, the Acting Administrator for the Federal Aviation Administration, accompanied by Mr. Alan Roberts, who is the Associate Administrator for Hazardous Materials Transportation. We have back with us again the Honorable Jim Hall, Chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board. And we have also Admiral Flynn with us, who has been with us several times, and Guy Gardner.
Mr. Gardner, we're pleased also to have you both with us today, as well.
We'll proceed. Mr. Valentine, you may begin your testimony.
TESTIMONY OF BARRY L. VALENTINE, ACTING ADMINISTRATOR, FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION, ACCOMPANIED BY GUY GARDNER, ASSOCIATE ADMINISTRATOR FOR REGULATION AND CERTIFICATION, ADMIRAL CATHAL FLYNN, ASSOCIATE ADMINISTRATOR FOR CIVIL AVIATION SECURITY, AND ALAN ROBERTS, ASSOCIATE ADMINISTRATOR FOR HAZARDOUS MATERIALS SAFETY, RESEARCH AND SPECIAL PROGRAMS ADMINISTRATION, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION; JAMES HALL, CHAIRMAN, NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD, ACCOMPANIED BY ROBERT CHIPKEVICH, CHIEF, PIPELINE AND HAZARDOUS MATERIALS DIVISION, PETER GOELZ, DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF GOVERNMENTAL AND PUBLIC AFFAIRS, AND GREGORY A. FEITH, SENIOR AIR SAFETY INVESTIGATOR, MAJOR AVIATION INVESTIGATIONS
Page 29 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. VALENTINE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, my name is Barry Valentine. I am the acting administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration and, as the chairman just indicated, I have two members of the FAA, as well as Mr. Roberts from RSPA, here with me this morning to assist in answering any questions the subcommittee members may have.
Mr. Chairman, with your permission, I would like to submit my complete statement for the record and, in the interest of time, offer a summary of that statement here today.
Mr. DUNCAN. That's fine. Thank you.
Mr. VALENTINE. Thank you.
We're pleased to have an opportunity to be here before the subcommittee on the anniversary of the very tragic ValuJet accident that occurred 1 year ago. We have learned many lessons from that accident, and we have made considerable progress since that time in a number of areas that I will address in a few moments. But first I would like to speak to the subject of the development of a rule for the installation of detection and suppression equipment in aircraft.
Back in November we announced that we would pursue a rulemaking effort to require the installation of detection and suppression equipment in the class D cargo compartments of passenger-carrying aircraft. We have proceeded with that rulemaking. We are on course and on track with our efforts. I expect to receive tomorrow from our transport director in Seattle the draft notice of proposed rulemaking for this purpose.
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I have already indicated to senior management at the FAA that I expect the most expeditious review and turn-around of that document so that it can move forward, and our plan is to have it in the ''Federal Register'' by the end of the spring.
Once we have gone through the comment period and received whatever input we get on this recommendation, we pledge to move as expeditiously as possible to have this rule out, if we can, no later than the end of this year.
Secretary Slater and I and the staff at the FAA are pledged and committed to move this forward as rapidly as we possibly can.
There have been a number of technical issues that have had to be addressed in order to reach the point where we could have a draft NPRM, not the least of which was the determination as to whether or not halon would continue to be available to be used as a suppression agent in the systems that are currently being installed on aircraft and in the systems that we will most likely be considering for installation for retrofit of aircraft.
At the end of this past week we received from the Environmental Protection Agency a letter indicating that halon would continue to be allowed to be used in aircraft in suppression systems for the life of the aircraft. Obviously, if a better system comes along in the meantime that is more environmentally friendly than is halon, we will certainly take a look at that and consider that as an alternative.
But with the announcement from the EPA, I think we have passed the final hurdle necessary to move forward with this rule and, as I said, we will move forward as quickly as possible.
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You've probably heard in the last few days some announcements from the Air Transport Associationthey will be speaking this morning and address this in more detail. We are pleased that they are now considering the voluntary installation of suppression, as well as detection equipment in aircraft as soon as that becomes possible.
Some airlines have already submitted to us plans for approval for the installation of such systems in their aircraft, so this process is underway and we expect systems to be, again, being installed in aircraft as soon as it's practicable.
Again, I wanted to underscore that everyone from Secretary Slater down to the people who work in our certification office and everyone in between are dedicated and committed to moving this regulation as quickly as possible, as they have been since we started working on it.
I'd like now to talk about some of the things that we've put in place in the past year in the area of inspection and in the area of hazardous materials.
We have established a national certification team whose job it will be to oversee certification of new entrant airlines. We are re-focusing the assignment of inspection personnel from what historically has been a process whereby we placed the largest number of people with the airlines that had the largest number of flights and the largest number of operations, since they're mature and were knowledgeable about their records, toward the new entrant carriers. The new entrant carriers will be subject to increased surveillance during the first 5 years of their operation.
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By the end of this year we will have added more than 300 inspectors to our inspector workforce. We have increased that workforce by 600 people in the last 4 years.
We have increased our inspection of repair stations, particularly those repair stations that do subcontract work for carriers. We are requiring of carriers that they do their own surveillance and assessment of the ability of the repair stations to do the appropriate work on their aircraft and provide us with the documentation of that surveillance as part of our oversight.
With regard to hazardous materials, as you all know, shortlyafter the ValuJet accident the shipment of oxygen generators by aircraft was banned. There is a notice of proposed rulemaking presently underway. The comment period has closed and it is in final review for the banning of the carriage of oxidizing materials aboard aircraft.
We've engaged in a massive effort for shipper training. It's a large task. There are 75,000 shippers that ship materials by air in the United States. It is essential that the people who engage in that end of the business understand the significance of dealing with hazardous materials, recognize it, and know how they are supposed to handle it.
RSPA has also increased its work force and its inspector force to assure that we do everything we canwhen I say ''we,'' we the agencies, we industry, we shippers, we the American public, because ultimately we're the shippers. We're the ones who are providing the material that goes on board aircraftto be aware of the importance of paying attention to this issue.
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We do recognize and, as I said earlier, pledgeall of us, from top to bottomto do our best to see that the kind of tragedy that occurred with ValuJet does not occur again. And we recognize that, even through everybody's best efforts, it is possible for items to end up on aircraft that ought not to be there, and therefore it is essential that we have on board those aircraft detection and suppression systems to deal with those hopefully rare instances in which materials end up on aircraft that ought not to be there.
With that, Mr. Chairman, I would be happy to answer any questions.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you very much, Mr. Valentine.
We will proceed now with the statement by Mr. Hall.
Mr. HALL. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, for inviting me to be here today to discuss hazardous materials and cargo fire protection issues that have arisen since the May 11, 1996, ValuJet accident in the Everglades near Miami, Florida. One hundred and ten people were killed as a result of this accident.
I want to compliment you, Mr. Chairman, Mr. Lipinski, and the committee on the timing of this hearing, which obviously has focused attention on this crucial subject at a very critical time.
Last Sunday I traveled to Miami to attend the memorial service honoring the victims of that tragic accident, many of whom testified before this committee last year. And after the service many of the family members shared their sense of frustration over the slow pace of installation of smoke detection and fire suppression systems in cargo holds of passenger aircraft.
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Frankly, Mr. Chairman, I share their frustration.
However, I believe with the announcement made yesterday that this is a great day for common-sense aviation safety and the families of ValuJet 592. I believe the events of this week reflect a renewed commitment in the Department of Transportation, which was expressed by Secretary Rodney Slater at our corporate culture symposium last month when he said that safety would be the North Star guiding the Department of Transportation during his tenure.
I would like to refer to a letter the Secretary sent me yesterday in which he said that the FAA, as you know, has been working on a proposal to require both detection and suppression systems in aircraft cargo holds. This proposed rule will be published in the ''Federal Register'' in 5 weeks, and you have my assistance that the proposal will become final this year.
I would like, Mr. Chairman, if it is permissible, to provide for the committee for the record my correspondence that I had this week between Secretary Slater and Ms. Carol Hallet and their response to me.
Mr. DUNCAN. Yes, sir. That will be made a part of the record when you submit it. Thank you very much.
[The information follows:]
Page 35 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. HALL. The National Transportation Safety Board's record on these issues is well-known. We first made recommendations on smoke detectors and fire suppression in airline cargo holds almost 10 years ago following the American Airlines incident in Nashville. The validity of these recommendations was tragically underscored by the ValuJet accident last year.
Mr. Chairman, just last month the need for these systems was validated again when a small supply of oxygen canisters was apparently accidentally and unknowingly transported on a Continental Airlines plane between Los Angeles and Houston.
Let me say first that Continental is to be commended for self-reporting this incident, since conceivably it could lead to sanctions. The information provided us is further proof, however, that no matter what regulations are passed, the threat of inadvertent placement of hazardous materials on aircraft will always be with us.
This morning I called Chairman Bethune of Continental Airlines to reiterate my appreciation for their forthright and prompt reporting of this incident.
Last September, Mr. Chairman, on a Federal Express DC10 flying from Memphis to Boston at 33,000 feet, the smoke detector light on the flight engineer's panel illuminated. The crew elected to divert to Stewart Airport in Newbrook, New York, and landed 4 minutes later. The five persons aboard escaped before the aircraft was consumed by fire.
This accident provides dramatic testimony to how early warning can mean the difference between life and death. In the ValuJet accident, according to a transcript of the cockpit voice recorder, the time between when the flight crew first learned of a problem aboard their plane and the last recorded conversation was less than 2 minutes.
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In summary, Mr. Chairman, let me again stress to this committee how important this subject is. Over the last 8 years, the shipment of hazardous materials on our Nation's airlines has doubled. It is projected to increase at 7 percent a year, and some 60 percent of those materials are carried on our passenger airlines.
So I think it is very timely for this committee to look at the structure of how the FAA provides oversight of this important area and see if any improvements are desired or needed.
I have with me today, Mr. Chairman, Mr. Robert Chipkevich, who is the chief of our pipeline and hazardous materials division; Mr. Greg Feith, our senior air safety investigator; as well as Mr. Peter Goelz, who is heading our family assistance program. They are sitting behind me, and they, along with me, will be glad to respond to any questions the committee might have.
Mr. DUNCAN. Well, thank you very much, Mr. Valentine and Mr. Hall.
I apologize to the witnesses, but we do have a vote going on on the floor, and so we will hold any questions until after the vote and we will break at this time.
Mr. DUNCAN. We'll proceed now with the hearing. I think we'll go first to Mr. Cook. Do you have any questions you would like to ask of these witnesses?
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Mr. COOK. Yes. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I would just like to ask Chairman Hall how severe is the difficulty in terms of being able to recognize hazardous cargo from the standpoint of the airline employees that are loading those cargo bays? Could you just expand a little bit on just how difficult that process is?
Mr. HALL. Well, Congressman, I may defer here in a moment to Mr. Chipkevich, who I brought with me, who is the person that has the responsibility at the NTSB for oversight in that area.
There are procedures, obviously, set up within the FAA in their Office of Aviation Securityand Admiral Flynn is hereto provide training and oversight for the shipment of hazardous materials and the appropriate identification of those materials.
We now have, I think, in the industry some 4,500 different subcontractors that various parts of the airline operations are out-sourced to, as well as a system set up within the FAA which they can speak to for a number of essentially approved shippers.
In the situation both with ValuJet and with the Continental incident, the material that was shipped is so-called ''COMAT'' or company material, which is treated under a sort of separate category and was mislabeled, and obviously we, as part of our ValuJet investigation, are looking very closely and will look, obviouslythe FAA will look at the Continental matter, exactly what failed in the system for that incident to occur.
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Mr. COOK. I have been in the explosives manufacturing and transportation business for a couple of decades, and when we hire any driver there isand in recent years increasedregulation in terms of the HAZMAT training. I'm just wondering what kind of HAZMAT or hazardous materials training is already in place for airline employees that handle cargo?
Mr. HALL. Well, we would be glad to briefly respond to that, as well as I think that question more appropriately goes also to the FAA because that's their responsibility.
Mr. COOK. And I didn't mean to just exclusively direct the question.
Mr. HALL. I would like to get Mr. Chipkevich, since I dragged him up here, I'll get him on the microphone in a minute, if that's okay.
Mr. CHIPKEVICH. Good morning.
One of the big concerns that the Safety Board has had for many years has been the undeclared shipments of hazardous materials. It was an undeclared shipment in Nashville, Tennessee, of hydrogen peroxide that was shipped not identified on board the aircraft. We've had several other incidents.
There is certainly a need to do a lot of training, a lot education, both public education and training. There is reported over 75,000 shippers of hazardous materials by air, over 4,900 repair stations for aircraft that can, in fact, be handling hazardous materials and be returning things that could be hazardous to air carriers, shipping them as company materials.
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Air freight forwardersover 3,000 of those who can be handling packages that they are receiving, consolidating, and then moving by air.
And then there are over 3,700 certified air carriers. Those are anywhere from the large part 121 air carriers to the single plane operator who could be carrying hazardous materials, company materials, at any time.
Mr. COOK. And then if I could just ask Mr. Valentine, I don't think there is an explosives transportation company that hasn't been fined at some point by the Department of Transportation. Have there been any fines leveled against airlines for the way they've been handling hazardous materials or any violations of
Mr. VALENTINE. Yes, sir, there have.
Mr. COOK. How significant is that procedure? I mean, do most of the airlines get fined for this, or could you just give us some idea of the scope of the problem?
Mr. VALENTINE. Sure. Let me ask Admiral Flynn if he would address that question. He would have more details on it than I would.
Mr. FLYNN. Mr. Cook, most of the problems that arise are not with the airlines' handling of declared and marked hazardous materials. The airlines have a good record of properly handling those materials.
Page 40 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Problems arise with undeclared, items; and when they are found by the airlines, there is a requirement that those be reported.
Most of the people who are found at fault are the shippers rather than the carriers, but the carriers are also assessed fines in some instances where we have found that they did not follow the regulations.
The amount of fines last year was $1.8 million, but a considerable amount of that was against the shippers' offerors of the materials rather than against the carriers, themselves.
Mr. COOK. Thank you.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you, Mr. Cook.
Mr. POSHARD. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I think I would like to direct my questions to Mr. Valentine, if I may.
Mr. Valentine, when did you first petition the EPA with respect to the availability and the use of halon?
Mr. VALENTINE. We've been engaged in discussions with the EPA since last year, because of our knowledge of their desire to banhalon production, of course, is bannedand their concern about the environmental impact of halon. So we've been in discussions with them since last fall about the continued use of halon in aircraft.
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Mr. POSHARD. But only since last fall? I mean, the
Mr. VALENTINE. FAA may have been in discussions for years, probably since this first came out. I would suspect that whenever thisand I don't know the answer to this, but I would gather that once halon was determined to be a hazardous material, that was a concern to anybody who uses it as a fire suppression system.
Mr. POSHARD. Okay. On page three of your testimonyI just need you to talk to me about how you view your relationship with the airlines from the point of view of the agency. You say that ''such voluntary action can generally accomplish the introduction of equipment faster than the regulatory process.'' Evidence of that with past experience?
Mr. VALENTINE. Airlines or any aircraft operators that want to take a particular course of action that doesn't violate any of our regulations can obviously do so in whatever timeframe they set for themselves, which in some cases, were it to be related to a rulemaking we're pursing, could happen much more quickly than our rulemaking process, given the fact that rulemaking generally takes typically a year-and-a-half to two-and-a-half years.
If it's not a terribly complex issue that requires waiting for the outcome of the rulemaking to determine what the appropriate course of action is, then obviously something could happen much more expeditiously if the airlines or other operators undertake it on their own before the completion of the rulemaking.
Mr. POSHARD. But can you think of anything with specificity at this point in time where your statement has proven to be true?
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Mr. VALENTINE. Unfortunately, I'm not familiar enough with the history of the relationship between the FAA and the airlines in the past to be able to have a concrete example. Some other people here with me may be able to do so. I'm sure the ATA could address that when they speak later.
Mr. POSHARD. Okay. I just want to go on and examine that relationship a little further, if I may.
I look at that next paragraph where you say, ''I'm also pleased to report that ATA member carriers have accepted our offer to expand our partnership approach to protecting aircraft from fire by agreeing to begin the installation of both detection and suppression equipment on their aircraft this year before our final rules go into effect.
Talk to me about how you see your role with the airlines. It seems to me that we're here asking you to be more authoritative, to be more direct in your approach to the application of what the public obviously demands and what this Congress obviously is asking you to do, and yet I look at things here in terms of your statement as almost an equal partnership here between your agency and the airlines.
We need a little bit more, I think, in the minds of the American public than an equal partnership, and I think that's the problem we're having here.
How do you view your role as administrator and how do you view the agency's role in respect to your relationship with the airlines?
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Mr. VALENTINE. Let me offer to you, Congressman, a quote or a comment from David Hinson, who was the previous administrator of the FAA. He said and quite accurately, that we cannot regulate our way to safety. We can only cooperate our way to safety. We, the FAA or the Government, do not make the airplanes. We don't fly the airplanes. We don't maintain the airplanes. The industry does that. The aviation community does that. They are the ones ultimately responsible for the safety of the operation of aircraft and the safety of their passengers.
Our job is to set the standards that they are to follow and to enforce those standards, but it's up to the operators every day to comply with those.
We think that the best way to ensure safety is to share information. The people who operate the airplanes are the people who know what goes on every day, who know what the problems are. That's why we have introduced a program we call ''GAIN'' right now, which is an attempt to globally acquire information from operators of aircraft so that we can see a trend before it becomes a serious trend.
So when we talk about partnership and cooperation, we talk about it in the spirit of sharing information, of solving problems together, of looking for ways to introduce safety factors maybe even faster than the rulemaking process allows.
Mr. POSHARD. I understand that. I guess I would suggest that you put a little more emphasis in the future on the enforcement end of your jurisdictional authority. I think that's what we want.
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If I may just ask a real quick question here, the 300 new inspectors, can you just briefly outline for us how inspection takes place? I mean, out of all the airplanes and the major airlines that fly every day, are they spot checked? How many inspections take place on a pro rata basis of planes that are in the air every day?
I mean, obviously it's an overwhelming task, but what's the effect of the inspections themselves, just in terms of sheer numbers?
Mr. VALENTINE. If I may, let me ask Mr. Gardner, because all of the inspectors work for him, in at least the safety certification and operations area, to answer that question if I may.
Mr. GARDNER. Yes, sir. The details I'll have to get back to you for the record.
[The information received follows:]
Mr. GARDNER. In general, to give you a feel for what the inspector work force does, it's a wide variety of oversight of the airlines, which includes spot checks. We have our inspectors walking the ramps, looking at airplanes, watching the way the airplanes are maintained. They're out there in the middle of the night in the maintenance facilities where a lot of maintenance for the carrier aircraft happens.
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They are also in the cockpits flying with the crews. They are also in the cockpits when the plane is on the ground checking the records, the log books, to make sure that all the paperwork is up to speed, as well as the interior, the cabin.
They alsoand I think this is very importantthey work with the airlines in looking at the way the airlines manage their safety programs. Do they have their own internal programs to ensure that the high standards of safety are met? Because we, frankly, with the inspectors we currently have, that is not nearly enough, obviously, to be looking at the tens of thousands of operations that are going on every day in this country.
And so what is very important is that we oversee the airlines and work with the airlines to make sure that their internal programs maintain that high level of safety.
Mr. POSHARD. Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you, Mr. Poshard.
Mr. Valentine, a little over a month after the ValuJet crash last year we have a copyI have a copy before me of a memo that was sent from one FAA inspector in the field to another in the field, not Washington people. And one asked the question if the airlines had any specific requirement to train their employees in the recognition and handling of hazardous materials, and the second FAA inspector responded, ''The answer is no.'' And that ''no'' is capitalized and has an explanation point after it.
Page 46 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Then he goes on to say, ''Will-not-carry operators'' and we've already mentioned that ValuJet was a will-not-carry operator''are not required to formally train their employees.''
At the same time as that memo, we had some of the top-level people at the FAA saying or implying that the situation was different. So I think it's fair to say that there was some confusion at that time. Has that confusion been cleared up now, or would you clear it up at this time? Are airlines under requirements right now to train their employees in the recognition and handling of hazardous materials?
Mr. VALENTINE. Let me give you the short answer, Mr. Chairman, and ask Admiral Flynn if he would like to expand on it.
Airlines that we refer to as ''will-carry,'' airlines that carry hazardous materials, are required to train their personnel. Airlines that do not carry hazardous materials are not required to do so. That's the short version of it.
I would hope that our entire inspector work force is aware of that difference and distinction by now after what we've introduced in terms of training and education in the last year.
Admiral Flynn, do you want to add to that?
Mr. FLYNN. I would add to it that the carriers who are not authorized to carry HAZMAT are, nevertheless, required in their operations manuals to have procedures for their personnel to follow in recognizing HAZMAT and, consequently, keeping it off the aircraft.
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Adding further possible confusion last year was that, even though ValuJet, with it not being authorized to carry HAZMAT, was not required to have a training program, it actually did. The carrier did have a training program for it.
Mr. DUNCAN. So ValuJet did have a training program?
Mr. FLYNN. Yes, it did.
Mr. DUNCAN. And, of course, how would somebody who has not had some training in this area recognize whether a material was hazardous or not?
Mr. FLYNN. Well, it's to recognize the signs that are required to be put on hazardous materials, which are very obvious, very brightly-colored signs that the shippers of hazardous materials are required to put on those shipments.
Mr. DUNCAN. Mr. Roberts, whatI mentioned earlier in my opening statement that, based on an earlier hearing that we held, it was pointed out that a company called SabreTech mislabeled the material that led to the ValuJet crash, and they labeled it as ''company material,'' which wouldn't have put up any red flags or wouldn't have caused any ValuJet employee to know that it was hazardous material.
Is there any practical way to avoid an accident arising out of some company mislabeling a box or mislabeling some shipment?
Page 48 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I know Mr. Valentine mentioned earlier that there were 75,000 shippers that I think the FAA has been trying to notify or encourage to be more careful. How do we avoid something like that, or is it possible to avoid something like that?
Mr. ROBERTS. First of all, Mr. Chairman, we have a very extensive regulatory program that we've spent a lot of time and effort to try and communicate to the regulated industries. That requires certification of each and every HAZMAT shipment that goes aboard aircraft, or by truck or rail or highway; that requires a distinctive label to be displayed on each package; that requires the marking of contents and the international identification number and classification code be displayed on every package.
The shipping paper must be certified by the person offering the material for transportation with a statement that says, ''This is to certify the above-described articles are packed, marked, labeled, described, and otherwise in conformance with the regulations of the Department of Transportation.''
This is all required certification for every shipment.
So there is a very extensive set of regulatory requirements that would apply to a shipment of the type that was in the ValuJet accident.
As has been indicated, the difficulty has been undeclared shipments. We have constantly worked on this issue over the years, and just within the last year we have distributed approximately 7 or 8 million different documents on this topic to passengers, since there is a major concern as to what passengers bring aboard aircraftas a matter of fact, yesterday we shipped 675,000 documents to one of the large airlines that requested them for distribution their airline tickets.
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We've issued 260,000 notices through trade associations and other organizations on advisory notices we have issued on this topic. We've issued two major advisory notices in the last year to the public through the ''Federal Register.'' We are doing everything we know how to make this communication to everybody we can find in the United States.
There are a large number of shippers. The 75,000 is a number that can pretty well be documented just through the operations of one carrier. It does not mean that that is an absolute number. That's a minimum number that is somewhat verifiable.
We just recently released a new document that we tried to make appear almost like a commercial document for distribution that would get people's attention that has to do with common sense, and training makes common sense, and then we go through a sales pitch to convince the industry it's in their best interest to train their personnel for compliance with the regulations.
So I can only tell you we're doing the best we know how to get the word out as broadly and as far as we're able to, not only domestically but also internationally.
Mr. DUNCAN. Hopefully this hearing will help some in that regard.
Mr. Hall, let me ask you this. I understand that the NTSB has been recommending fire detection systems on board airplanes for many years. In fact, I have one note that says there was a recommendation made in 1984. That's 13 years ago.
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You expressed pleasure in your testimony that it seems that maybe action is now being taken. This sounds very good to me, and I suppose to everyone, butand I understand from ''The Aviation Daily,'' today there is going to be a meeting at the end of this month, and then Mr. Valentine said that he was hopeful that a final rule could be placed into effect by the end of this year.
We hear some who say, ''Well, this can be done in 3 years.'' The airlines apparently say 5 years. Some people say it can be done quicker than that. Some say that we should move very quickly on the fire detection, that we should have two separate rules here because we can move very quickly on a fire detection rule and maybe need a little more time on a fire suppression rule.
What comments do you have in regard to all that?
Mr. HALL. Well, Mr. Chairman, let me first say that, while in my opening remarks I expressed congratulations and happiness on the announcements of yesterday, the work is not completed until the American people know that when they get on a passenger plane, every passenger plane in this country with a class D cargo department has the smoke detection and suppression systems that have been promised.
It is obviously up to the FAA and the industry to work out exactly the timeframe that that needs to be done.
In my conversations with Secretary Slater he was talking about a 3-year timeframe. It is clear there has been no sense of urgency at either the FAA or in the aviation industry on this issue over a long period of time, if you look at the history of our recommendations.
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I'm pleased to see that it's moving forward now. The bottom line is it took the ValuJet accident for that to happen.
Mr. DUNCAN. Mr. Valentine, any comments? Do you want to explain for the record why all of this takes so long now that the decision has been made to move forward? I understand that a good part of this or some of this delay was from the EPA, and now you've gotten that hurdle cleared, but do you want to make any comments in regard to how long this should take?
Mr. VALENTINE. Yes, Mr. Chairman, I'd be happy to.
As Mr. Hall just indicated from his conversation with Secretary Slater, we plan to pursue the 3-year approach rather than the 5-year approach.
Mr. DUNCAN. I guess what I'm getting at is this: there are a lot of people in the general public who don't understand these things who are going to say, ''Well, why can't it be done in 6 months or why can't it be done in 1 year,'' so why don't you explain that in a common-sense and down-to-earth way. What all does everybody have to go through?
Mr. VALENTINE. I'd be happy to, Mr. Chairman. I just wanted to verify that we are looking at a 3-year rule. That is our intent.
We have a meeting at the end of this month with the airline industry to talk about how that all gets scheduled into the operating process, but, nonetheless, that's what we're pursuing.
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A little while ago during the break I had an opportunity to meet one of the family members in the hall, and she expressed to me, quite understandably, a great deal of frustration about how long it appears to herand I think probably to most of the publicto undertake a rulemaking.
I think many of the Members here who have been around any length of time are aware of the fact that in Government, and not just DOT or FAA but in all agencies of the Government, it takes a considerable amount of time to go through the rulemaking process. Part of that is intentional. Part of that is designed, quite candidly, so that we do not have precipitous government, so that we do not have government act impulsively in introducing changes that affect people without having thought them through, without having done thorough analysis.
Now, in those cases where there is a clear and dramatic and immediate safety concern, we have the authority to issue what we call an ''interim final rule'' where we sort of do the rule first and then figure it out afterward. But otherwise the rulemaking process is one that involves essentially three phases. The first phase is deciding what it is you want to accomplish and what the best way is to accomplish it; to design the rule so that it meets all of the requirements of the Administrative Procedures Act; to do the economic analysis, which we are required to do. Despite all of the comments that people have made about how it sounds cold and calculating, it is something we are required to do, and I think ultimately the taxpayers expect their Government, when proposing rules and regulations, to generally be certain that the benefit to be achieved exceeds the cost that's incurred in the process. We are required to do that.
Some rulemakings are very technical. In fact, we submit them to what we call the ARAC, the Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee. That process may take a year or 2 or 3 in ARAC before we get something out of it. Those usually aren't urgent items but, nonetheless, they are items that require the best technical advice and expertise in order to come up with an appropriate rule.
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Once that has been done, the rule goes out for a comment. The comment period can vary anywhere from a low of 30 days to usually a maximum of 120 days. This particular rule will go out for 120 days because it has international implications and we are required to do that when rules have an effect on international parties. The international party in this case is Airbus. They manufacture aircraft that are used by our operators, as well.
Once the comment period is closed out, we review the comments. Depending upon the nature of the commentsthere may be few, there may be many, they may be simple, they may be complex. They may even point out items that suggest that the rulemaking is not headed in the right direction. We have to record in detail all of our analysis. We have to record why we accepted or rejected any particular suggestion. All of that has to be documented.
Once we go through that process, then we can issue a final rule.
Historically in the FAA, rulemaking has taken, on the average, about 2 1/2 years.
Last year Congress mandated that we accelerate that process to take no longer than 18 months.
About a year or so ago we completed a rule, the so-called ''commuter rule,'' which was a rule undertaken and done in a period of a little over a year. That's probably a record. But it was accomplished, quite candidly, by abandoning all other rulemaking and putting all the resources on that single rule.
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So that's the nature of the process. We're going to do our best, as I said earlier, to move this rule as quickly as possible. I know it's frustrating for people in this process. It's frustrating for us, sometimes, as well, with the length of time it takes to work through all of the processes necessary to do a rulemaking, but that's how the process has been established by people presumably far wiser than me in how we go about rulemaking in Government.
Mr. DUNCAN. Well, I tell you what, everything looks easy from a distance, doesn't it?
Mr. VALENTINE. Sure does.
Mr. DUNCAN. Mr. Hall, I believe you raised your hand. You have a comment you want to make?
Mr. HALL. Well, I just wanted to make a comment. Congressman Poshard I believe asked if there was evidence of an airline that had moved ahead on the safety measure without rules and regulations, and Southwest Airlines moved ahead on retrofitting their flight data recorders based on the 737 accident recommendations that we made after Pittsburgh. So clearly the aviation industry can move ahead, and that was a commitment that was made 5 months ago by the airline executives to move ahead with a fire detection system in the cargo holds.
I think, Mr. Chairman, what concerned me the most was to find that within that period of time there was only one airline, Delta Airline, that had actually moved forward and done what they said was going to be done.
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I think a lot of that was that, to some degree, they were relying on their association here to represent their interests, and I don't know exactly what fell through the cracks other than the fact the bottom line was nothing has been done.
Clearly, things can move quicker if people make it a priority.
I think it's important for the committee to know that at the time of the ValuJet accident, the staffing in the FAA in the HAZMAT area was 14 individuals, when we talk about these 75,000 shippers and the training and oversight. Of course, now that is going to be increased up to approximately 122 people.
Mr. DUNCAN. All right. Thank you very much.
Chairman Shuster has called a meeting of the subcommittee chairmen, and I'm going to turn the chair over to Vice Chairman Blunt, and I'll be back shortly, but we'll go next to Mr. DeFazio.
Mr. DEFAZIO. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I guess to Mr. Valentine, you know, I would look back to May 16, 1986, when the FAA rejected the National Transportation Safety Board's call for fire detection systems and wonder why that was rejected and what has changed since then except the tragic loss of life with ValuJet; and on August 10, 1993, 5 years after the next recommendation by the NTSB, the FAA again rejected it, saying it did not believe such systems would provide a significant degree of protection to occupants of airplanes.
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So we've had two instances where the NTSB made recommendations for fire detection and they were rejected. We have now documented cases where lives have been saved because of fire detection. Do you think the FAA was wrong in its previous decisions? Why did it make those decisions? Was it because of cost/benefit analysis?
I'll try and lay out a number of questions and hope you can answer them in the time allotted.
Why couldn't we separate detectors from suppression? The suppression has been controversial. Yes, that's more problematic. It's more complicated. Detectors are seemingly pretty simple technology. Why couldn't you have an interim final rule on detectors? Why couldn't you have had one a year ago and we could have detectors today? Why couldn't you have had an emergency rulemaking for detectors? Why couldn't you have a functional rulemaking saying, ''We want detectors. We are not going to design each and every one for every plane and have specificity. We want detectors that don't otherwise jeopardize or interfere with the operation of the plane, and let the manufacturers and the airlines figure it out in a short period of time.
Why didn't we do those things? I mean, I guess, you know, you really don't think detectors are worth it and you only think the suppression is worth it. You can't separate the two? You don't think we could possibly save some lives with detectors, even though it has been now documented we have?
Mr. VALENTINE. We think we could save more lives with both and we want both. We don't want just detectors.
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Mr. DEFAZIO. Right. Well, why couldn't youbut if you could get one today or 1 in 6 months or 1 in 12 months because it virtually does not cause any airframe integrity problems or design problems or anything elsethat is, detectorswhy couldn't we put that on a separate track, fast track it, and say, ''Look, this is noncontroversial. There's no potential problems here. There is a tiny cost to the airlines. And we're going to have this done in 6 months to a year.'' Wouldn't that be worth it? And then put the suppression on a longer track if it will take 3 years, in your estimation Why couldn't we do that?
Mr. VALENTINE. The airlines, as you recall, back in December offered on their own, voluntarily, to go ahead and start with the installation of detectors. They'll
Mr. DEFAZIO. They're up next, and I'll ask them about that.
Mr. VALENTINE. And I think they still plan to do that.
Mr. DEFAZIO. Okay. So they could do it without a rule from you?
Mr. VALENTINE. They can do it without a rule from us providedand here's the keythey can't just do it willy-nilly. They have toand one airline, Delta Airlines, has done this already. They have to submit to us a request for a supplemental type certificate because they are altering the certification status of the airplane.
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They have to circulate
Mr. DEFAZIO. How quickly can you process that, given the fact that this is not exactly technology that's going to jeopardize airworthiness?
Mr. VALENTINE. Fairly quickly. I can't tell you the number of days. Possibly Mr. Gardner can give you a better feel for that?
Mr. DEFAZIO. Less than a year?
Mr. VALENTINE. Yes.
Mr. GARDNER. Certainly on the order of a month, sir, because that's about what it took us for the Delta request.
Mr. DEFAZIO. Okay. So we have approval of detection for Delta. Just detection, or detection and suppression?
Mr. GARDNER. Actually, their submittal was for both, sir.
Mr. VALENTINE. For both, and what they will do is install that system in an airplane. We will then look at that system to make sure that it conforms to what they applied for and that it's a workable process, and then they will subsequently do that with the rest of their airplanes.
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Mr. DEFAZIO. And what's their time line to complete their fleet?
Mr. VALENTINE. That I don't know.
Mr. DEFAZIO. Do you know?
Mr. GARDNER. They have not specified for their fleet. We currently have a meeting scheduled the end of this month with the airline to come up with a schedule based on our rule for the 3 years.
Mr. DEFAZIO. But, I mean, wouldn't itgiven a year has elapsed since the tragic loss of life, the detection technology is clearly less problematic than the suppression technology; is that correct? I mean, detection is a passive system, essentially?
Mr. GARDNER. Yes, sir. Both require, however, stringing the wiring throughout the plane to get from the cargo compartment to the cockpit, obviously.
I might add that I believeand you can check with the ATA in the next panelthat they have agreed to actually start installing this equipment, making the conversions in the first group of their airplanes by the end of this year, which will be before we actually get the final rule out.
Mr. DEFAZIO. Right. Well, I think the flying public is not going to feel real cozy about knowing that they're beginning 18 months after a horrible tragedy and approximately 14 years after the first recommendation by NTSB to put in detection technology. I think if you went to the airport and asked people in line, ''Are you aware that the plane you're about to get on has no fire detection capability or suppression capability in the holds,'' that they'd feel real warm and cozy about this.
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Mr. VALENTINE. Let me qualify that for a moment. They do have fire suppression or containment capability in the holds currently. The class D cargo departments are designed to prevent the propagation of fire.
Mr. DEFAZIO. Because of the airtight?
Mr. VALENTINE. Because of the airtight. Now, obviously that process is defeated if the object involved in the fire is an oxygen generator.
Mr. DEFAZIO. Yes.
Mr. VALENTINE. But when that rule was set in place, it was not envisioned that people would be shipping oxygen generators under the circumstances under which those were shipped.
Mr. DEFAZIO. Mr. Hall, in that case you referred to it was a cargo plane. That was since, I guess, cargo planes don't have thedidn't have the airtight capability? Is that why that fire spread?
Mr. HALL. This particular shipment on Federal Express was in the upper cargo area of the plane.
Mr. DEFAZIO. Yes.
Page 61 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. HALL. In the pressure vessel.
Mr. DEFAZIO. Okay. So it was a different situation. But, Mr. Hall, do you believe, since the NTSB has been recommending since 1984 that there would have been value or there still could be value in expediting installation of detection, even if it is on a separate track than something that might take longer, like suppression?
Mr. HALL. Congressman, it defies common sense that this couldn't happen quicker than it has. You know, if people put an urgency on it and move forward, things happen. That's where I get lost in all this from the standpoint that this should have beenwith what happened last year in aviation in 1996, the number of tragic accidents that our agency had to investigate, I am confidentI was confident that both the FAA and the aviation industry would make, as is our business, the first order to try to address the things that caused those accidents to be sure that an accident similar to that does not happen again.
I don't think it calls for putting it in just the normal rulemaking process. I think it needs expedited rulemaking. I think it needs someone designated by the chairman of the particular airline to handle the issue and somebody to take the action, such as Secretary Slater has taken, to say it's going to happen.
Safety is a shared responsibility, but public safety is a public responsibility, and the bottom line is it's a Government function.
So I feel very strongly in this particular issue that this hearing and the events of this week have been very timely to at least get this on a track, because it was previously on a track really to nowhere.
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Mr. DEFAZIO. Thank you, Mr. Hall. My time has expired. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. BLUNT [assuming Chair]. Thank you, Mr. DeFazio.
Mr. Fox, do you have some questions?
Mr. FOX. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Valentine, hearing this testimony regarding the hazardous materials on airlines, I just wonder whether the agency hasn't considered whether or not hazardous materials don't belong on passenger airplanes, regardless of whether we take precautions.
Mr. VALENTINE. We have had those discussions. My understanding, with my limited knowledge of hazardous materials, is there are something like 4,000 commodities that are currently listed as hazardous materials, including things that one doesn't normally think of, including things we carry around in our pocketbooks or on our persons every day.
Mr. FOX. But I guess, just so I can make myself clear, I don't mean the things that the Government may just label ''hazardous'' in the sense that they may make the label; I mean actual things that can have planes cause to be exploded that shouldn't be on there.
Mr. VALENTINE. That's precisely why
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Mr. FOX. Maybe they could better go by another means of transit which is more freight and less people on it.
Mr. VALENTINE. That's why, for example, we've banned oxygen generators and RSPA now has a rule out proposing the banning of any oxidizing materials whatsoever, those that could start or cause a fire.
Mr. FOX. I guess I would ask the agency, on behalf of the committee, to consider making the list as long as possible so we have the most number of flights that increase in safety because we're dealing with human lives.
Mr. FLYNN. Mr. Fox, there is a problem, and that is that most of the hazardous materials incidents arise from people sending things to the airlines to carry not properly marked. The problems arise from people either culpably seeking to avoid the additional charges that are involved, or the expense that's involved in packing and segregating hazardous materials; or it comes about through ignorance on the part of people who are giving shipments to the airlines.
Having a very extensive ban rather than a set of conditions under which things can be safely carried
Mr. FOX. Let me go to the inspection for a second, if I may. I only have limited time. The FAA has dramatically increased its number of HAZMAT inspectors. Do these new inspectors have the experience in hazardous materials problems? And what sort of training are they receiving before being placed in the field?
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Mr. FLYNN. Many of them do have considerable experience in hazardous materials. We have people who have come to us from private industry with considerable background in that and from other Government agencies. We have sought that experience. They are going to have three times as much training as the previous corps of inspectors had.
Mr. FOX. Okay. Mr. Valentine, in relation back to your testimony, where on page two you discuss the notice proposed to require the retrofit for the fire detection and suppression to phase in over 3 years and done together, have you thought differently since Mr. DeFazio's line of questioning about speeding up one before the other if that can occur?
Mr. VALENTINE. In looking at the original decision to do either a single rule or two separate track rules, we felt that doing them both together under a single rule was the most appropriate approach, because we believe we wantand we don't think one will slow down the other.
Mr. FOX. Why phase in over 3 years
Mr. VALENTINE. The technology for suppression, when we can now assume that we'll be able to continue to use the halon systems, is not that daunting at all. Airplanes are
Mr. FOX. Could we phase it in over a lesser period of time than 3 years, though? I mean, the
Page 65 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. VALENTINE. Here's the answer: it could be done in a very short period of time if we want to ground the fleet. I mean, the decision is how much disruption do we, as citizens, want to have in our air transportation.
Mr. FOX. I think we want to have as safe flights as possible, and if they have to be a little slower, the public probably would like them a little slower. That's my thought.
Mr. VALENTINE. In reviewing public policy, that's, you know, certainly a consideration that has to be given, and that's why we're going to be having our discussions.
Mr. FOX. I think safety is the major reason we are here this morning. So if we have to go a little slower to be safe, probablylet me just ask this question of Mr. Hall. Can you give us the status of the ValuJet investigation and when the report will be issued? And can you tell us whether the oxygen generators started the fire, or could the fire have been caused by another source and was exacerbated by the generators?
Mr. HALL. Congressman, we are in theour staff is in the process of writing the final analysis on the ValuJet hearing. The factual part of the record has been completed. A hearing was conducted. I believe evidence was presented at that hearing and demonstrated through an exhibit that was held at Atlantic City, the potential for the oxygen generators.
The Board has not come to final conclusions. There are five members of the Board, and so I would defer on specifically answering your question other than to say that we anticipate by the end of July having our Board meeting and our final report on the accident.
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Mr. FOX. I think the aftermath of ValuJet is that, while we grieve over this tragic accident, we will learn no lessons if we don't make the kinds of safety changes that will make sure it doesn't recur.
Mr. HALL. I agree with you, Congressman, and that's why we made urgent recommendations on many matters concerning the oxygen generators and the handling of this equipment immediately after we began the investigation of the accident.
We do not wait for our report to be completed before we make recommendations.
If I could just add, to follow up on what Admiral Flynn had said in regard to so many people mislabeling and putting things on, which is the evidence in history, I think, that the FAA has, I think that that just speaks volumes as to why this should have been done long ago and needs to be done immediately.
Mr. FOX. Thank you.
Mr. BLUNT. Thank you, Mr. Fox.
During the 8 years I was Secretary of State of Missouri, Senator Danner, who was State Senator Danner then, had what appeared to be life and death control over my budget year after year and always let us live, and I'm glad to be able to call on my fellow Missourian, Ms. Danner, right now.
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Ms. DANNER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I have several questions. My first will be directed at Mr. Valentine with regard to the issue of the halon.
Now, EPA may say that our airlines, our domestic airlines, can use this, but this is not just a domestic issue, this is an international issue. How then will this affect our planes as they land in foreign countries?
Mr. VALENTINE. Currently, no effect. One of the issues that has been raised by the Air Transport Association has been the issue of whether or not a foreign country would decide to ban halon and possibly any vehicle or airplane or equipment that had the halon on board.
We have pledged, the Administration has pledged to vigorously oppose any efforts in that area in the international arena.
My personal opinion is that that's highly unlikely. The systems that are on the airplanes are on there in the event they might ever have to be used. We would hope, and I think history suggests, that the frequency with which halon would ever be discharged is extraordinarily rare. And so I don't see that happening in that arena.
Now, there is the broader issue of an international ban on halon, but people in other parts of the world are faced with the same circumstance we're facing right now with our carriers, and that's the same issue with theirs.
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I think that we're reasonably comforted in being able to believe that, at least for the life of the airplanes that are retrofitted, for the life of the ones coming off the assembly line, that until such time as there is some viable alternative that they'll be able to continue to operate those aircraft.
Ms. DANNER. Well, the life of one coming off an assembly line could be 30 years or more, obviously.
You also made a statement that if a suppression comes along that's more environmentally friendly we will take a look at that. Does that infer that an airline might retrofit with halon, and if you discover somethingand surely technology will provide something in the next 5, 10, 15 yearsthey'll have to retrofit again?
Mr. VALENTINE. No. The response from the EPA is that for any airplanes that will be retrofitted with a halon system, they will be able to continue to operate for the life of the aircraft. But for any of those aircraft that are going to be retrofitted, if there is an alternative they would be required to pursue that alternative.
Ms. DANNER. And I must say I do associate myself with Peter's remarks. I don't think that suppression and detection are Siamese twins that must go along together. I believe that they are separate entities.
Mr. Flynn, airlines that don't carry HAZMATand there are some. You mentioned ValuJetthey are still allowed to carry company materials that are hazardous?
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Mr. FLYNN. No, they are not, with one exception: they are allowed to carry inflated, serviceable aircraft tires. That's the one exception.
Ms. DANNER. I see. Okay.
Mr. Hall, you mentioned some airlines going ahead voluntarily. You mentioned Southwest. My question is broader than Southwest, although I think they are pretty exclusively 737s, are they not?
Mr. HALL. That's correct.
Ms. DANNER. But many other airlines obviously also fly 737s. Where are we on the rudder problem? I thought 2 years was a littleat one time I read something that said 3 years, and so FAA came into my office because I thought that was extraordinary, but they tell me now it's 2 years.
Inasmuch as several crashes have been attributed to that problem, I'm a little surprised we're allowing that lengthy a period of time with regard to the rudder issue.
Mr. HALL. Well, of course, as you know, we have investigated two accidents, United 585 and Pittsburgh 427, involving 737s, and, as a result of that, made a number of recommendations to the FAA in regard to the rudder.
We are also in the process this year of completing our investigation on the Pittsburgh accident; however, my understanding isand I would defer to Mr. Valentine on thisthat Boeing is moving ahead on a redesign of that rudder package. And it would be my hope that that redesigned rudder should be in place in the fleet just as soon as possible.
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Ms. DANNER. Very good.
My next question is for Mr. Gardner. How many inspectors do we have? Did I understand you to say approximately 3,000?
Mr. GARDNER. Yes, ma'am.
Ms. DANNER. How many of those are stationed overseas?
Mr. GARDNER. I don't have that number, ma'am. I'll have to provide it for you.
Ms. DANNER. Because I want to
Mr. GARDNER. It's a very small number of that.
Ms. DANNER. I want to know how we are watching over the maintenance bases in overseas locations that are servicing our planes. For example, recently one of the engines that we had problems with we understand was serviced in Turkey. I want you to furnish at least to meI don't know if other committee members might be interested, tooa more-definitive answer of how you are inspecting these.
[The information received follows:]
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Ms. DANNER. And you might also
Mr. LIPINSKI. Ms. Danner?
Ms. DANNER. Yes?
Mr. LIPINSKI. If you would just yield for a moment?
Ms. DANNER. Certainly.
Mr. LIPINSKI. The very topic you're on at the present time, we have a hearing coming up on overseas maintenance very soon with the subcommittee.
Ms. DANNER. Excellent. I'm pleased to hear that. I will certainly be in attendance.
Mr. OBERSTAR. If the gentlewoman would further yield?
Ms. DANNER. Yes.
Mr. OBERSTAR. The area that the gentlewoman is inquiring about comes under the jurisdiction of the FAA's Brussels' office that has a very small staff of about 40 personnel who are stretched all across western Europe, the Middle East, and Africa to conduct those inspections and to conduct safety inspections of airports in their jurisdictional areas. So they have a very small staff to cover an enormous area.
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And in the Pacific Rim, during our committee trip of infrastructure investments in the Pacific, we stopped at several facilities over which FAA has surveillance authority in Beijing and Shanghai and in Hong Kong, and there are resident inspectors in those major maintenance facilities like Hong Kong Aircraft and Engine Company. There is an on-duty, but one person for a facility that handles only 747s.
Ms. DANNER. Thank you.
Mr. OBERSTAR. They need more people is the bottom line.
Ms. DANNER. Certainly that's true.
One last question is one I can't resist asking, and it really has perhaps nothing specific to do with this hearing. How many terrorist activities have you stopped by those questions that we're now required to answer every time we fly? You know, has any stranger given you a package? Has your luggage been in your possession? That really takes a tremendous amount of time. I can't imagine that a terrorist would say, ''Yes, I do have a bomb.'' So how did those two questions come about?
Mr. FLYNN. A very high percentage, unfortunately, are carried aboard unwittingly by people to whom the bomb has been given by the terrorist. That is the unfortunate case. We want to increase people's awareness of the possibility of being duped into carrying a bomb that kills them and everybody aboard the aircraft.
Page 73 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. DANNER. And so the result has been how many terrorist bombings have you stopped with this?
Mr. FLYNN. None that I know of. The incidence of terrorist attacks is very rare, but the results are catastrophic.
Ms. DANNER. That's certainly true.
Mr. FLYNN. And we want to be able to blunt the terrorist attempts to use the vector of duping people or, indeed, putting bombs into bags that are left unattended. That has also happened. They happen rarely, but they have happened with catastrophic
Ms. DANNER. We need shorter answers, because I have a lot of questions. One last question, Mr. Chairman, if I may. The baggage match domestically?
Mr. FLYNN. We have baggage match or bag search on the basis of a profile now. We are intending to have baggage match on the basis of automated profiling beginning by 31 December of this year. A test of full bag match is underway from the 6th to the 19th of May of this year. That's carrying out one of the recommendations of the White House Commission.
Ms. DANNER. And you're watching to see, as I understand it, as I would hope, what kind of delays this causes, what kind of problems this causes.
Page 74 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. FLYNN. Exactly, Ms. Danner.
Ms. DANNER. Thank you.
Mr. BLUNT. Thank you, Ms. Danner.
Mr. Valentine, there is obviously great concern here about the speed of this. Three years is better than 5 years, 1 year would be better than 3 years, I'm sure, from this committee's point of view. Have you thought about dividing the rules? Could you move faster if you divided the fire detection rule and went forward on it and forward separately on the fire suppression rule? I think they could have different timeframes. One is probably easier to get accomplished more quickly than the other.
Mr. VALENTINE. Again, we did consider that, and we believe that the time difference between the two rules would be relatively insignificant, and we want to get both rules out as fast as possible.
Mr. BLUNT. And so you're going to go with both of them at the same time?
Mr. VALENTINE. Yes, sir.
Mr. BLUNT. How about halon? We've talked about halon some. Is there an adequate supply of halon for what you expect the use to be? That would be one question. Another is: is the EPA doing anything that would encourage the diminishing of that supply? If so, what could we do about that?
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Mr. VALENTINE. My understanding is that there is an adequate supply of halon available. There are considerable stockpiles of halon. I don't know what things the EPA is engaged in.
Mr. BLUNT. Do you know of any efforts the EPA has to diminish the stockpile of halon?
Mr. VALENTINE. I'm not familiar with one, but there may or may not be. Someone else here may have some knowledge of that.
Mr. BLUNT. Is anybody else here aware of any EPA effort to do anything to diminish existing stockpiles of halon? Mr. Gardner?
Mr. GARDNER. No, sir. I have some numbers for you. We expect this rule will require the retrofit of about 120,000 pounds of halon over the life of the airplanes affected. The current worldwide reserves are 100 million pounds, and the U.S. has about 40 million of those pounds.
Mr. BLUNT. Okay.
Mr. GARDNER. It's a very adequate supply.
Mr. BLUNT. Mr. Hall, you said your report would be out on this by the end of July?
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Mr. HALL. Yes, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. BLUNT. And at this point, you don't have any information that you could share with us about source of fire? You don't know if it was oxygen generator generated or just enhanced by the presence of the generators?
Mr. HALL. Well, obviously, Mr. Chairman, in our hearing and in our investigationand what I'd like to do is, because Mr. Feith is the individual preparing the analysis of this report right now, I'd like to invite him to come up here and respond to that question, because I will have to be in a position of voting on the staff report.
Mr. BLUNT. Okay. Mr. Feith, we'd like to hear from you on that.
Mr. FEITH. Good morning. We were able to demonstrate in the post-crash testing that oxygen generators were capable of originating a fire, and there was some concern that the initial fire that broke out on 592 may have been electrical-based. But, based on the physical evidence we hadwe recovered 75 percent of the airplane from the Evergladesin an examination of that wreckage we were able to determine that the fire source or the possible source of that fire was located in that forward cargo hold, and that the containment or the area of fire originated in the center section, or a good majority of the fire burn area was in the center section of the cargo compartment, which then led us back to the five boxes of oxygen generators that were shipped on top of three tires in that cargo compartment.
Page 77 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. BLUNT. And you did some tests to determine that those generators, independent of any outside source, could have ignited the fire?
Mr. FEITH. That's correct, sir. We went up to the FAA test facility and took several different-sized boxes initially, and then formally when we did our formalized test, and put oxygen generators in a box, and we set one generator off by literally pulling its lanyard pin to start the ignition process, just like you would do in an airplane.
But when it was stacked in a box with other generators, it had enough residual heat that was emittedaround 350 to 500 degreesthat it was able to ignite other oxygen generators in that box, and the subsequent fire that resulted was a fire that increased in temperature of up over 3,000 degrees.
Mr. BLUNT. This plane had had some immediate electrical problems before the incident?
Mr. FEITH. That's correct, sir. We had heard that there had been some electrical work done on the aircraft in Atlanta prior to its flight to Miami. Given that information, it was incumbent upon us to look for an electrical-based fire, given the fact that we knew there were oxygen generators, but we had this information that electrical work had been done.
And given the fact that the evidence that we found out of the cockpitthat is, the circuit breaker panel in questionthere was work done on the auxiliary hydraulic pump, itself. Looking at that circuit breaker, there was no evidence of fire, there was no evidence of smoke or arcing, which would be indicative of an electrical-type fire in that particular area of the cockpit.
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That, combined with information off the cockpit voice recorder, the conversation between the flight crew and the fact that the flight attendant had come up and said that there was fire and smoke in the back of the airplane led us to then move our part of the investigation further aft and into the cargo hold.
Mr. BLUNT. And you found nothing, even though they'd worked on the plane in Miami, that would indicate that the plane should not have been allowed to take off because of the electrical problem? You found that that was adequately taken care of?
Mr. FEITH. The documentation that we were able to backtrack from the time the airplane was worked on in Atlanta to its point in Miami prior to its departure, because there had been some additional work done, all of that was substantiated through the course of looking at the evidence that we were able to recover from the Everglades.
Mr. BLUNT. Okay. Well, we look forward to your report the end of July and know we'll be talking more about that.
Ms. MILLENDER-MCDONALD. Thank you so much, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Chairman, I have a statement that I will submit for the record.
[Ms. Millender-McDonald's prepared statement follows:]
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Ms. MILLENDER-MCDONALD. Being a new member here, I am going to get down to some bottom details. Perhaps you have answered this question, but I was not here at the time, and I apologize for that. But accountability is very important to me, and I'm going to raise some questions, and perhaps if I call on you and you're not able to answer you will defer to the next person.
Mr. Flynn, I think your name is, you suggested that there wasthe containers that had the hazardous materials were not labeled properly. Whose responsibility is it to label those containers properly?
Mr. FLYNN. The people who originate hazardous materials, who manufacture them in the first instance and then offer them in shipment.
Mr. Roberts might answer that question, add to that.
Ms. MILLENDER-MCDONALD. So the person who is transporting this to the aircraft is responsible to ensure that that is labeled properly?
Mr. FLYNN. That's right.
Ms. MILLENDER-MCDONALD. But then, in the case of what happened, who is the secondary person responsible for ensuring that these are labeled properly?
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Mr. ROBERTS. The whole system is designed to place the burden on the person offering the hazardous material for transportation to certify on the documentation identifying that hazardous material that it fully complies with the packaging requirements, the marking and labeling requirements for its complete identification and offering for transportation.
Fundamental is the communication of the presence of the hazardous material or the system fails.
Mr. FLYNN. If I could take the sense of your question, then the air carrier is required to look at that documentation and if the package contains, for example, a hazardous material that the carrier is not permitted to have aboard an aircraftan explosive is an examplethe carrier has an obligation not to load that into the aircraft.
Then, with regard to the other materials, there are limitations on weight, there are limitationsrequirements with regard to segregation of certain materials, with regard to restraint of packages containing hazardous materials, and the air carrier must comply with all of those requirements.
Ms. MILLENDER-MCDONALD. And so ultimately the air carrier is responsible to ensure that this is placed in the proper storage space and cargo and that the container's label is appropriate with what is inside of the container?
Mr. FLYNN. No. Their problem is that if there is no indication of hazardous material in the package, if, in fact, there is a falsification of the package, then the carrier doesn't have a means for followingfor doing its part of the work, which is to segregate it and stow it properly.
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Ms. MILLENDER-MCDONALD. It is stated in the background material that I have that the pilot was aware of the fact that there was an emergency and was en route to return, whereas the crew was unaware of the fire until it was too late.
Mr. Gardner, how can we avoid these types of things from happening in the future?
Mr. GARDNER. I'm not sure I understand your question.
Ms. MILLENDER-MCDONALD. Well, it seems like the pilot was aware that there was something going on with the smoke in the cockpit, but the crew was unaware until it was too late. Is there not some kind of connection or
Mr. GARDNER. Well, the pilot is part of the crew. That's why I
Ms. MILLENDER-MCDONALD. I understand. Well, this
Mr. GARDNER. I think I understand your question. The fire, as the NTSB
Ms. MILLENDER-MCDONALD. The pilot is not the only crew person.
Mr. GARDNER. Yes, ma'am. In this plane there are two people, the pilot and the first officer are the crew members.
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Ms. MILLENDER-MCDONALD. Right.
Mr. GARDNER. The flight attendants are also part of the crew, and in this
Ms. MILLENDER-MCDONALD. That is correct.
Mr. GARDNER.case it was the flight attendants who noticed the fire first because of where we think it started and came up and alerted the crew, including the pilot, to that effect.
Now, what our rule for smoke detection and suppression will do is, before the fire even gets into the passenger compartment, the detectors will detect it and that message will light up, the appropriate enunciation in the cockpit for the crew to then take the appropriate response.
Ms. MILLENDER-MCDONALD. All right.
Mr. Valentine, how do youhow do I ask this question? Do you not think it's a priority to ensure that the suppression and the detectors should be expedited and be placed in the aircraft, and this rulemaking that you're suggesting on your page three could perhaps be a secondary entity that you look at?
It appears to me like we have been too long in trying to get to the bottom of this issue to ensure safety for the passengers. I mean, you know, lives are important in this country and we want to make sure that it's safety. We are still procrastinating, in my opinion, with getting this rulemaking and all necessary provisions that will ensure that we have the proper installment of the equipment to ensure the safety.
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Why is it that you don't see this, seemingly, as a priority?
Mr. VALENTINE. We do see it as a priority.
Ms. MILLENDER-MCDONALD. Well, why has it taken so long for you to put this in?
Mr. VALENTINE. I don't know if you were here earlier when I went through
Ms. MILLENDER-MCDONALD. I perhaps was not, and that's why I apologized.
Mr. VALENTINE.an explanation of the Federal Government rulemaking process that all agencies of the Federal Government must go through, and we are moving this one much more quickly than that process normally takes.
Ms. MILLENDER-MCDONALD. So it's regulatory impediments that have caused you not to move as
Mr. VALENTINE. If you want to call it impediments. I mean, once again, I'm a citizen and a taxpayer separate from the hat I'm wearing here today, and I expect my Government to be somewhat deliberative in its rulemaking processes to make sure that it does things correctly, to make sure that within the solution to the problem there isn't the seed of another problem.
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Our processes do take a long time. There are things that I think most Members here are aware of that we're required to do under the Administrative Procedures Act that are cumbersome, that are time-consuming.
Ms. MILLENDER-MCDONALD. And we cannot speed that process up, given the incident that happened?
Mr. VALENTINE. We can speed it up by directing and concentrating our personnel resources on this particular rulemaking, bearing in mind that we do that at the expense of other rulemakings. At any given moment we literally haveI don't know what's on the list nowI mean, hundreds of rulemakings in process at any given time, literally hundreds.
Obviously, some, such as this, are much more important than many of the others, so there are things we can do, and we are doing that in this case.
Ms. MILLENDER-MCDONALD. And we have put this in a priority status now?
Mr. VALENTINE. Yes, it is. This is moving much more quickly and we hope will have been completed much more quickly than normally is the case in rulemaking.
Ms. MILLENDER-MCDONALD. I see.
Page 85 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. BLUNT. Thank you, Ms. McDonald. The entire committee benefits from the leadership of the ranking member, Mr. Oberstar, and I'd like to call on him now.
Mr. OBERSTAR. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, for your very kind words and for your leadership here.
I want to welcome this panel and congratulate each of you on the role that you have played in not only the ValuJet but the broader issue of regulation of new-entrant, low-cost carriers, and particularly your contributions to National Transportation Safety Board. Under your leadership, Chairman Hall, the NTSB has demonstrated once again the extraordinary role it plays on behalf of the American public in safety in all modes of transportation, but, of course, the ones that are so visible are those that involve the catastrophic aircraft tragedies.
I want to particularly commend the NTSB Vice Chairman Bob Francis on the dispassionate, objective, knowledgeable manner in which he conducted the inquiry into ValuJet and the on-scene steady hand that he demonstrated. It reflects great credit on you, Mr. Chairman, and on the NTSB, and on the role that Government plays. People often forget Government in this age when there is so much criticism. They forget the critically important role that Government public servants play in ensuring safety.
Page 86 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I agree with you that safety is a Government function. You said bottom line safety is a Government function. Assuring safety is certainly a Government function, but I have come to understand that safety begins in the corporate board room; that in aviation there has to be a corporate culture of safety. It starts with the chief executive officer and permeates the entire organization. The roles of the FAA and of the NTSB, which are slightly different, is to ensure that airlines carry out that primary responsibility.
In the FAA Organic Act of 1958, the very first paragraph says that the FAA, which was newly created then from the old Civil Aeronautics Authority, shall maintain safety at the highest possible levelnot only the safety that airlines can afford, not only the safety that we can do out of pocket, not safety on the margin, but safety at the highest possible level. They look''they,'' the traveling public, look to the FAA, and justly so, to assure that, from every stage, from certification to maintenance of operations and separating aircraft, air traffic control, that that safety function is carried out. But the first line is the carriers. We can never forget that.
One of the aspects of safety, though, that has troubled me for years is that of the cost/benefit analysis that goes into the regulatory function. The role of the National Transportation Safety Board is to be normative, to come into a tragedy, examine, find the causes or probable causes, and say, ''This is what should be done'' without regard to the cost. That's not the NTSB's responsibility. That is a role for the FAA and the Department of Transportation to sort out the costs and the benefits.
But in this particular rulemaking and without regard to Administrationdemocrat or republicanthis has been a function imposed upon the FAA to examine or analyze the costs of undertaking a function and the benefits.
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How much time has the FAA spent since ValuJet in evaluating the costs and determining the benefits before you proceeded to the rulemaking?
Mr. VALENTINE. We began not long after ValuJet this past year to look back actually at the original recommendations made by the NTSB back in 1988. We looked at the data from that period when we originallyand I should mention originally started a rulemaking process in 1988 upon their recommendation. Part of that process involved cost/benefit analysis. It became very evident early on in the process in 1988 that the cost/benefit analysis numbers suggested that it would not pass muster on that basis, and the rulemaking process was discontinued.
There were a number of other factors I won't go into here at the moment that were undertaken in order to enhance fire safety.
We looked at that data, again took into account changing circumstances, and this fall, in reviewing the cost/benefit analysis again, determined that the numbers, at least at initial glance, were more closely aligned and therefore it was appropriate to proceed with this rulemaking effort.
So we spent a fair amount of time this fall going through that, re-analyzing that to make sure that we're making the right assumptions, both in terms of cost and benefit, as we proceed.
Mr. OBERSTAR. You've consumed a considerable amount of time, in short. I appreciate that you can't quantify it in hours or days, but it has taken a very considerable amount of time of the rulemaking. The rest of the rulemaking should not be very difficult to develop the supplemental type certificate, to work with the aircraft manufacturer on the specifics of how the detection and suppression devices should be installed. Those are fairly routine aircraft engineering matters, are they not?
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Mr. VALENTINE. That's correct. We would hope that, upon completion of the comment period, barring anything unusual that we don't anticipate at this time, it should not take that long thereafter to complete the final rule.
Mr. OBERSTAR. This is something the public does not understand and has very little patience with. It's a matter of great importance to the carriers. But, as I said in my opening remarks, in the end the traveling public pays for the safety that you require the carriers to install on board. In the end, they buy the ticket.
I don't subscribe to airlines' complaints that this timeframe is too short or the cost is too high. I want to just reemphasize if ground proximity warning systems had been required to be aboard regional commuter aircraft in 2 years, as we recommended, and as I think the FAA initially recommended, rather than 4 years that the DOT granted, 19 people in northern Minnesota, some of them from my home town, would be alive today, would not have crashed into that iron ore dump near the airport.
Just one observation, Mr. Hall. There was a report in the news media that the NTSB had released information about Continental Airlines shipping oxygen-generating canisters from Los Angeles to Houston in violation of regulations. There was a concurrent report that Continental self-disclosed to the FAA.
There are two ways you get information: one, through the NASA aviation safety reporting system, anonymous hotline reporting, and the concurrent FAA investigative process; and the second is voluntary disclosures.
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Do you think that release of that information discourages voluntary disclosure? Or perhaps you would like to explain the situation.
Mr. HALL. Well, Congressman, let me say that when we raise issues such as these we are often attacked by industry lobbying groups as being political or alarmist, and in some cases those attacks are personal.
Now, my feeling is that my position and responsibility is to the American people and to the Senate and Congress that represent the American people in regard to safety.
I was very concerned on the Continental matter that this was reported to the FAA on April 24th and it did not come to the attention of our agency until this week.
You would think, in light of the ValuJet accident, Congressman, that if someone knew that something like this had taken place, that that information would be extremely important to the flying public of the United States.
I think that's where Government credibility is lost is when we attempt to cover up rather than make all information concerning public safety available.
Mr. OBERSTAR. Thank you for your explanation.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Page 90 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. DUNCAN [resuming Chair]. Thank you, Mr. Oberstar.
Mr. LIPINSKI. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Delta Airlines, exactly what is it that Delta is planning on doing before any of the other airlines is apparently planning on doing?
Mr. VALENTINE. Let me ask Mr. Gardner to address that, if he could.
Mr. LIPINSKI. Sure.
Mr. GARDNER. Yes, sir. To accomplish this retrofit of detection and suppression, the airlines submit a
Mr. LIPINSKI. It is detection and suppression?
Mr. GARDNER. Yes, sir.
Mr. LIPINSKI. Okay.
Mr. GARDNER. For any modification such as that, the airlines submit a supplemental type certificate, what we call an ''STC.'' Now, that can either be just a letter saying, ''We intend to do this,'' and follow up with data, or it includes the data.
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In the case of Delta, for their 737s they actually included the data, the engineering drawings on how they would make the modification to 737, and we have approved that.
Mr. LIPINSKI. Let me interrupt you just for a second. So they simply notified the FAA in writing that they are planning on retrofitting for suppression and for detection?
Mr. GARDNER. Yes, sir.
Mr. LIPINSKI. Okay. And then they could go ahead and do so?
Mr. GARDNER. No. Then they have to submitin the case of Delta, for the 737s in their fleet they submitted the engineering drawings. In other words, where we're going to put the detectors, where we're going to run the wires, what it's going to look like in the cockpit, how it will be electrically poweredthose kind of engineering items.
And the FAA has to look at that and approve it to make sure we haven't created another safety problem with the airplane by trying to fix that safety problem.
Mr. LIPINSKI. Have you done that yet in the Delta
Mr. GARDNER. Yes, sir.
Mr. LIPINSKI. Okay. So now Delta could go ahead and start doing that, correct?
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Mr. GARDNER. Yes, sir.
Mr. LIPINSKI. Okay. That's only on the 737s?
Mr. GARDNER. Yes, sir.
Mr. LIPINSKI. They fly other aircraft also, do they not?
Mr. GARDNER. Yes, sir, and Delta has submitted the STC proposals for the other aircraft, but not the engineering data, so we await that.
Mr. LIPINSKI. In the course of conversations with Delta here and their 737s, since they have submitted it to you, you've approved it, has anyone said when they're going to start doing it?
Mr. GARDNER. I believe they've beenand I'll have to get the precise information, because I heard two different conflicting reports, but I believe they actually put the modification for the detection part in one of their aircraft, and they're in the process of doing the test flight certification of that modification at this point.
Mr. LIPINSKI. Is there anything that would prevent any other commercial airliner in this country from doing the same thing?
Mr. GARDNER. No, sir.
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Mr. LIPINSKI. So American, United, TWA, Southwest, right on down the line, they could all submit their request for new certification from the FAA, submit the engineering work that goes along with it, and if it meets with your standards you could approve it and they could start doing so immediately, correct?
Mr. GARDNER. Yes, sir.
Mr. LIPINSKI. And we wouldn't have to wait for the 5 years that they're talking about, and we wouldn't have to wait for the 3 years that you're talking about, correct?
Mr. GARDNER. Yes, sir. Let me remind you where the 3 years comes from. That's to do all of the airplanes in the fleet. Obviously, it would not be in the best interest of the American flying public to ground all the airplanes and do them all next week.
Mr. LIPINSKI. Let me ask you, does anybody here on this panel know how long it would take to put in the suppression device or the detection device in a single plane?
Mr. GARDNER. That is being designed and being done during their major overhauls of the planes, which occur about every year-and-a-half to 3 years, and that's where that timeframe
Mr. LIPINSKI. Mr. Hall would like to speak at this moment.
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Mr. HALL. Congressman, I would like to know the answer to that question. I have called Boeing Aircraft Company and several of the major airlines and asked them if this is so difficult to please give us some idea of what is involved and the timeframe. I'm told that the cost per airplane is about $125,000 to $190,000 for both the detection and the suppression system on each plane.
I think the question of whether the schedule would then be implemented or executed at the time they're brought in for their so-called ''C checks'' or whether they would come up with an extraordinary structure that would try to do it on a more rapid schedule is probably the issue that the FAA and the airlines will have to deal with.
Mr. LIPINSKI. Well, my question still is: how long does it take to put in the suppression device and/or the detection device? Does anyone on this panel know? Not when they're going to do it because they have a certain maintenance check on it. I'm just talking about whether it takes an hour, 15 minutes, 10 hours.
Mr. VALENTINE. There are some members of the ATA who will be speaking to this panel after us, and they may have the answer to that for you, sir. We don'tagain, because the expectation was that this kind of work would be done when the airplane was in the hangar for regular maintenance work, so it would just be integrated into that other work.
Mr. LIPINSKI. I think that's important to know, because I'm sure that the ATA is saying that if you bring them in sooner to do this work we're going to have problems with service in this country.
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Mr. VALENTINE. That's one of the things that we mentioned earlier that's happening at the end of this month is a meeting between the FAA, our technical people, and the airline industry to talk about just exactly what is going to be entailed timewise and what the consequences of the different timeframes are if you do it sooner or if you do it later.
Mr. LIPINSKI. I think it was Mr. Gardner who said that Delta has put in the detection device in one plane, and they are now testing it?
Mr. GARDNER. Yes, sir.
Mr. LIPINSKI. Do you think we could find out from Delta Airlines how long it took them to put in that detection device?
Mr. GARDNER. Yes, sir. We can get that information.
[The information received follows:]
Mr. GARDNER. Probably most of the time involves taking the aircraft apart to run the wire from the cargo compartment to the cockpit and then putting the airplane back together. The actual bolting the detectors in place and laying the wire is probably a very small part.
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Mr. LIPINSKI. I'll give them from the time they take out the first screw or bolt, taking the plane apart, until they put the last one back in after they've hooked everything up. That's the period of time that I'm interested in knowing because
Mr. GARDNER. I'll get that for you.
Mr. LIPINSKI.it would seem to me that if that's a relatively short span of time maybe we don't have to work until the C maintenance check is done and we don't have to wait until the fall when I understand most of this is done.
Mr. Valentine, in the aftermath of the ValuJet accident, committee staff met extensively with FAA personnel. During the course of the meetings we learned that security personnel are responsible for HAZMAT, and the amount of time each inspector is ideally supposed to spend annually on HAZMAT inspections is vastly underachieved. I believe the target was 80-plus hours, and the inspectors were actually spending approximately 20-odd hours.
Clearly, this is completely unacceptable. What is the FAA doing to address this serious deficiency with regards to HAZMAT inspections?
Mr. VALENTINE. If I may, let me ask Admiral Flynn to address that question, sir.
Mr. FLYNN. We have decided and have implemented a program to replace the part-time inspectors who gave some of their time to HAZMAT inspections, as well as doing security inspections, to have a specialized work force of 132 inspectors and supervisors to do only dangerous goods, HAZMAT, and cargo security inspections, enforcement, education, trainingall of the things that are necessary to bring in an effective program.
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So we should be able to devote 132 labor years per year to this, plus the 20 labor years per year that you mentioned, Mr. Lipinski.
Mr. LIPINSKI. When will this start?
Mr. FLYNN. Of the 118 additional inspectors, we have hired 80, and we'll have all of our hiring done in July, and the training is already underway.
As I mentioned in response to an earlier question, many of the new employees have very strong backgrounds in hazardous materials. The manager of hazardous materials for FedEx is now running our program. I think we've got a much more solid program.
Mr. LIPINSKI. Thank you.
Mr. Hall, I want to say that, in regards to the Continental situation, I concur with youthe sooner we get this kind of information out to the public the better off I believe we are. I think we have an obligation to get it out to the public.
In regards to the Continental situation, though, there are some questions that seem to bethat have come up, and some answers seem to have been contradictory, and I'm just trying to find out from you and perhaps from the FAA exactly what the situation was.
The canisters on the Continental flight, I understand they were not labeled ''HAZMAT'' but they were labeled ''company material,'' is that correct?
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Mr. HALL. Congressman, I'm going to ask Mr. Feith, who is the individual responsible for investigating that incident for the Board, to comment on what he can in terms of the factual information he's obtained from his investigation to date.
Mr. FEITH. I was notified at the beginning of the week regarding this incident that there was a possibility that oxygen generators had been shipped on a Continental aircraft, and in doing some investigation work I called Continental to find out about the incident and was provided early on some basic information. They hadn't formalized it yet. They were doing an internal investigation and had notified me that the FAA security office out in Los Angeles was also doing an investigation regarding the placement of these oxygen generators on an airplane that ended up in Houston.
In backtracking, our initial report was that the oxygen generators had been shipped unknowingly, they got onto a Continental flight from Los Angeles to Houston, and that upon receipt by maintenance people in Houston when they were unpacking the 72 boxes that were in a shipping container they found seven oxygen generators. Our initial report was that some of them were uncapped and had the lanyard still in place, which arms the firing mechanism.
Subsequent to that, in more follow-up investigation, we found out late in the afternoon on Tuesday that, in fact, they had shipping caps on them; however, they had not been properly packaged. They were not declared. They were not properly labeled on the box. And they were, in fact, contained in a shipment of 72 boxes of aircraft parts that had gone back to Continental Airlines' maintenance facility.
Page 99 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The whole process started at a subcontract maintenance facility in California who had been doing some work for Continental Airlines.
Quality assurance people from Continental Airlines, in doing a routine audit of the facility which they typically do, found that one of their storage areas where they had secured parts into a locked-up area, they found it unlocked. When they questioned the subcontract maintenance facility about it, they said they had lost the key to the lock. And so the Continental people said, ''Anything that you can't determine is airworthy, we want you to ship that back to our facility in Houston.''
So the subcontractor then did an inventory of the storage area, and those parts that they were not able to identify as airworthy, they boxed them, they called the freight forwarding company, and then had the freight forwarding company send these 72 boxes, which were eventually placed in a shipping container, shipped back to Houston.
It just so happened that the freight forwarder found that the first flight going to Houston was a Continental flight. It was on a DC10. The container ended up on the DC10 and ended up in Houston.
The maintenance people, once they unpacked the boxes, then went to their supervisor upon finding these oxygen generators and said, ''Hey, we have a problem. We found these oxygen generators. They aren't on any type of manifest. They aren't labeled as HAZMAT or anything else. What do we do?''
That was the process then of the self-disclosure where Continental then went to the FAA and said, ''Hey, our maintenance people found this upon unpacking this crate, this shipping container.''
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Mr. LIPINSKI. From what you just said, I got the impression that these canisters could have wound up being shipped on some other airline; is that correct?
Mr. FEITH. It could have ended up on any aircraft because the freight forwarding company looked for the best possible means, and it just so happened that it was on a Continental flight at that time. But, again, the problem started or the whole process started at the subcontract maintenance facility.
And just one other point
Mr. LIPINSKI. That's pretty much where the problem started with ValuJet, also.
Mr. FEITH. That is correct.
Mr. LIPINSKI. Go ahead. You wanted to say something else. I cut you off.
Mr. FEITH. I just wanted to make the point that you had talked about training earlier. The fact is that there are many people that work in these subcontract maintenance facilities. While the certified mechanics do the work and sign off the work, there are many people that in their training process are not certified. So when you look at the broad-based issue of training, you have to identify the specific people that need to receive that training and the type and the extent of training, especially with regards to HAZMAT identification and handling.
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Mr. LIPINSKI. In regards to the canisters, once again, they werethey had the safety caps on them, but they were not packaged correctly, nor were they marked correctly; is that right?
Mr. HALL. Nor were they allowed, under these recent rules, to be carried on passenger aircraft with or without safety caps, in or out of cargo compartments that had the fire suppression and detection equipment.
Mr. LIPINSKI. I missed the first part of what you said. I think what you said was that they are not allowed to be carried. That was a ruling by the FAA, right?
Mr. HALL. That's correct. And let me again, Congressman, since this issue is being discussed, again compliment Continental on the self-disclosure of this incident.
Again, I was extremely disappointed by the delay that we had in getting the information from the FAA, and I want to say that I think self-disclosure is extremely important, and I would hope that the mediaas Mr. Feith pointed out, this material could have been carried on any carrier, and obviously all the attention and publicity and the pictures you saw on TV were tales of the Continental airplanes.
I hope that we can get the media to take a more responsible approach, particularly in these matters that are self-disclosed, because they are important to us being able to have the safest possible aviation system for the American people.
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Mr. LIPINSKI. Yes. I think Continental should be applauded for what they did.
Is there anyone with the FAA that would like to say anything about this Continental situation at all?
Mr. FLYNN. Yes.
Mr. LIPINSKI. Admiral Flynn?
Mr. FLYNN. While praising Continental, the context in which they ought to be praised is that it is mandatory to report these incidents. They might well have done it voluntarily, but it happens to be required.
Mr. LIPINSKI. I'll still praise them for doing it, though.
Mr. FLYNN. Yes, by all means. I just wanted to clear up a question as to whether it's voluntary or required.
And then there were two shipments, actually. The first one of material from the Santa Barbara Aerospace Repair Station, didn't have any canisters on it, just didn't happen to have any of the generators in it, and it was shipped on a no-cargo flight.
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And then the second one that happened to have these generators, these were not marked. They were packed and shrink-wrapped on a part of the pallet with no indication that oxygen generators were in that box.
Mr. LIPINSKI. Anyone else? Yes sir, Mr. Roberts?
Mr. ROBERTS. Yes, Mr. Lipinski.
I think it's important to note that the way the system works, a material may not be permitted aboard aircraft, which could be because of its quantity, form, volume, or the fact that it's just prohibited. If it's not permitted aboard passenger aircraft, a distinctive and rather conspicuous orange label must be displayed on the package saying ''cargo aircraft only.'' All oxygen generator packagings offered for transportation in air commerce must be so labeled. You can see them from 100 feet away.
If there is compliance with our requirements, these materials should not be getting on passenger aircraft.
As we said earlier, we've campaigned extensively and exhaustively to try and improve the compliance posture of the shipping community through enforcement programs and also training literature and by publications in the ''Federal Register.''
We're awaiting the outcome of the final investigation report of NTSB, but we participated in the hearing that NTSB held in Miami, and it appears that the quantity per packageeven though in those days oxygen generators were permitted aboard passenger aircraft, had there been full compliance with all the packaging, marking, and labeling rules, at least one of the boxes, as we understand it, would not have been permitted aboard a passenger aircraft and would have been prohibited from being shipped in the way it was, even if it were packaged and fully in compliance with our regulations.
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Mr. LIPINSKI. I think that we have to look very, very closely at these subcontractors. I think that's really where our biggest problem in regards to these matters lies, and I think that was proven during the hearings that we had in regard to the ValuJet accident.
Mr. Chairman, that's all the questions I have.
I do want to say, though, before I conclude, we had excellent participation today from both sides of the aisle, and I thought that people asked extremely good questions, and I think this is one of the finest hearings that you have conducted, and I compliment you on having this hearing at this very, very appropriate time.
I also commend you for helping us accelerate this process tremendously. Thank you very much.
Mr. DUNCAN. Well, thank you very much, Mr. Lipinski.
I've got just a couple of other things very briefly.
Mr. Valentine, 6 months ago yesterday the FAA issued an announcement or made a commitment and, in fact, put out a press release that said they were going to promulgate a rule in regard to the fire detection and fire suppression and so forth, and now basically what you've done, we've done this again here today. Six months from now are we going to come back and be in the same situation that we're in today, or is there really going to be movement this time?
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Mr. VALENTINE. I fully expect and, as I think I said earlier, from Secretary Slater to me to everyone in the agency, we are committed to having this rule in a position where 6 months from now we will have completed, if my math is right, the comment period, and will be most likely in the final assembly, if you will, of the document that will become the rule.
So 6 months from now we will have issued the NPRM, will have gone through the comment period, and will have been in the process of analyzing and finishing the analysis of the comments for the final rule. That's what we pledge here today to see happen 6 months from right now.
Mr. DUNCAN. And one final question just for my own knowledge and understanding. You went through the difficult process of promulgating the rule, and then Mr. Hall mentioned that something about the cost. In addition to the problems about making sure that you do this ruling the right way, we are talking about a pretty significant cost here. He said, I think, $125,000 to $190,000 per plane. And I believe it was mentioned earlier that there aresomebody said there are approximately 3,000 planes that would need this work; is that correct?
Mr. VALENTINE. That's correct, sir.
Mr. DUNCAN. There are many planes, though, just so wethere are many planes flying passengers right now that do not require this work; is that correct? I mean, how many planes do you have total flying passengers now? I understand it's five or six thousand.
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Mr. VALENTINE. If you're talking about jet aircraft, it's up in the, I believe, six to seven thousand range.
Mr. DUNCAN. Six or seven thousand.
Mr. VALENTINE. If you're talking about total aircraft involved in scheduled commercial service from small to large, it's up in the neighborhood of 18,000 airplanes.
Mr. DUNCAN. That's 18,000?
Mr. VALENTINE. Yes.
Mr. DUNCAN. And this work, though, applies only to approximately 3,000?
Mr. VALENTINE. Yes. The numbers we have are roughly 2,800.
Mr. DUNCAN. On 2,800?
Mr. VALENTINE. Yes.
Mr. DUNCAN. All right. Thank you very much. Thank you. This has been a very fine panel. Thank you for your assistance.
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We have a couple of votes that we have to get to. I apologize. We'll go do these votes, and then we'll start back with panel number two as quickly as possible.
We will stand in recess until after the vote.
Mr. DUNCAN. All right. We'll proceed once again with the hearing.
What I'm going to do is to combine this panel we have listed as panel number two, and then we have listed separately as a family panel Ms. Lee Hamilton Sawyer, but so Ms. Sawyer won't feel left out, just by herself, I'm going to go ahead and ask her to come forward at this time.
The second panel consists of: Mr. John Meenan, vice president for policy and planning of the Air Transport Association of America; Captain David J. Haase, who is the executive central air safety chairman of the Air Line Pilots Association; Mr. Brian J. Quirk, who is president of Cease-Fire Midwest, Incorporated; and then, as I just mentioned, we have Ms. Lee Hamilton Sawyer, who is a representative of the ValuJet victims.
We certainly are pleased to have each of the four of you. We will proceed with your testimony, and I suppose that it wouldwe'll just go in the order in which the witnesses are listed, which would mean, Mr. Meenan, we would go with you first, please.
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TESTIMONY OF JOHN MEENAN, VICE PRESIDENT, POLICY AND PLANNING, AIR TRANSPORT ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA; CAPTAIN DAVID J. HAASE, EXECUTIVE CENTRAL AIR SAFETY CHAIRMAN, AIR LINE PILOTS ASSOCIATION; DENNIS M. QUIRK, VICE PRESIDENT, CEASE-FIRE MIDWEST, INC.; LEE HAMILTON SAWYER, RELATIVE OF VALUJET FLIGHT 592 VICTIM, ACCOMPANIED BY LAURA CANDACE SAWYER, DAUGHTER
Mr. MEENAN. Mr. Chairman, thank you very much.
It is a pleasure, as always, for me to appear before this committee.
Before moving to the specifics of the issues before us today, I did want to take an opportunity to share with you a growing concern among the aviation professionals with whom we work, and that is with the trend toward sensationalism in dealing with the serious subjects of aviation safety.
Over the past several years there has been a decided tendency in that direction, insisting on the fix of the hour to problems of self-declared experts who have not taken the time to assess and understand the implications of what they're calling for. Whether it's responding to the most recent poll or headline, the latest tabloid television show, to a book being promoted by a former government officialwhatever the cause, the fact is that if this trend is allowed to continue, safety will suffer and not improve.
Now, let me be clear that I'm not suggesting a complacent approach to safety, but rather a re-endorsement and a focus on the techniques that have built our air transportation system, which by any fair measure is among the safest industries in the worldthe techniques that rely on scrupulous attention to detail, collection of every available piece of data, and an absolute adherence to a systems analysis type approach. This means prioritizing issues when that is the most effective way to address them.
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Keep in mind that we have well in excess of one hundred billion dollars worth of good ideas in the queue, and somehow or another those have to be sorted out.
Tragically, on extremely rare occasions, it also means being willing to learn from accidents and not worrying about or being distracted by convenient cheap shot sound bites about tombstone regulations. It means putting into effect true partnership and cooperation between industry and government and relying on our best line of safety defense, and that's the employees of the airlines of the United States.
It was in that spirit of cooperation and partnership that the ATA member chief executive officers joined with President Clinton and Vice President Gore last December to announce plans for the retrofitting of class D cargo hold smoke detection equipment and put into action the plan which will now let us include fire suppression, as well.
I would be remiss in not thanking this committee for holding today's hearing, which contributed to finally getting action on some of the issues we have been seeking resolution on since last December.
My written statement contains a brief recitation of the chronology of this issue, and I will not repeat it here. But suffice it to say that we are on track and, indeed, a bit ahead of schedule with regard to detection. Nothing, despite statements made this morning, has ever fallen through the cracks.
With the assured cooperation of the FAA, the EPA, and the entire Administration, we're confident that we're now going to be able to maintain that same schedule or close to it on the fire suppression issues, as well.
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Let me address a few points which seem to have received a great deal of attention recently. First, why does it take so long to do this work? Keep in mind that we're dealing with over 3,000 airplanes. Our latest count is 3,264. These include 11 different airframes and literally hundreds of different configurations of those aircraft.
Before we can even install a coffee pot on an airplane, let alone a detection and suppression system, vast amounts of engineering work, testing, documentation, and a wide array of technology issues must be resolved to the satisfaction of the FAA. That process began the day after we met with President Clinton and Vice President Gore, and it remains on track.
I would be pleased to explain more about this, but, in the interest of time, let me move on.
I would like to mention here the question about Delta and the STC. Delta has been doing some work, to its credit, in moving that process along. They have not, statements made this morning notwithstanding, been granted an STC at this point.
The FAA has asked us, however, that, in general terms, that individual airlines not approach these issues in this manner. Rather, they have requested that we work these issues through the original equipment manufacturers to have the engineering work and the STC applications submitted to one point in the FAA rather than regionally, which is what has gone on with Delta up to this point. That way we and they can maintain the kind of quality control we're all looking for here.
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We have never deviated from that course. There has never been any slow-down or delay or any other suggestion that we were going to deviate from that course.
There are other airlines which are also doing additional work, which is in varying stages of development right now.
Once the certification work is completed, we can begin actually installing the equipmentsupplying the necessary parts, training the mechanics as to the details, arranging the necessary time and maintenance schedules, which are fine-tuned years in advance. Securing hangar space is a major problem. We don't have surplus hangar space or surplus mechanics let alone aircraft that aren't well accounted for years ahead of the scheduled requirements.
Now, all of that, of course, is subject to FAA review and approval, as well. As to timing, we're talking herethere were a lot of questions on this morning just on the detection issuesour estimates indicate that the work will require approximately 200 hours per aircraft. That's roughly 7 days of worktime for a lot of carriers in terms of maintenance. That's assuming that that airplane has been opened up for a heavy maintenance check at that point.
Fortunately, our understanding is that we'll be able to do a lot of the detection work and the suppression work simultaneously, so we don't think that number is going to expand dramatically. We haven't had time to calculate it. Yesterday I was told that may be 25 to 50 percent greater. It may be greater than that, it may be less. I can't tell you at this point.
Page 112 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Now, keep in mind that that's times over 3,000 airplanes. It takes time to do this kind of work properly, and I'd be reluctant to fly on an airplane maintained by a mechanic who said we could do it overnight.
Second, when will the installation of significant numbers of aircraft begin? The first aircraft likely to be equipped are the Airbus 320, Fokker 100s, and L1011s. That's because substantial engineering work had already been done for those aircraft.
We're working with the manufacturers and the FAA, as I said, to be certain that the necessary certification work is done for the most numerous aircraft types thereafterBoeing 737s, MD80s, DC9s, and so onso that we can get most certification work done for the largest numbers of aircraft out there, as quickly as possible.
It is highly inaccurate and a public disservice to claim, as some have, that because an application has not been filed with the FAA at this point that this work hasn't been going forward. It has. It takes time to do things right.
Third and finally: What is all of this background noise we've been hearing about the role of the Vice President and the EPA and the NTSB and the DOT and the FAA and so on? Without going into the wee hours of this morning, I really couldn't explain that to you in detail right now. I guess it's best to say that this is a technical issue which has become, unfortunately, political, and that that is not typically a good combination.
Suffice it to say that the EPA letter delivered to us on Tuesday of this week cleared the way for us to begin getting both detection and suppression systems installed. That's our intention and that's where we're going.
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We have been assured that, while this letter was signed by the EPA, it reflects the absolute commitment of the highest levels of this Administration to this effort, and we may be asking you for your assistance in further solidifying that as we move forward. We're particularly grateful to Vice President Gore for his intervention and help to get this done and for his aviation leadership. We're also grateful to the FAA and DOT leadership and for their commitment. We are mutually pledged to follow through at this point.
In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, I would like to return to the point I made earlier. The course toward consistent improvement in aviation safety is tried but true. It's typically without headlines or fanfare, and it is achieved by a fanatical devotion to detail. If we lose sight of that for political expediency, we lose and the American traveling public loses.
I would be pleased to respond to any of your questions.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you very much, Mr. Meenan.
Mr. HAASE. Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman.
I'm David Haase, executive central air safety chairman for the Air Line Pilots Association. ALPA represents the safety interests of 46,000 professional airline pilots flying for 44 airlines in both the United States and Canada, all of whom have the potential for carrying hazardous material on their aircraft.
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We appreciate this opportunity to appear before you today, and we have provided for the record a written statement which we would like to have submitted for the record. In addition to that, we've provided copies of a position paper, which we'd also like to have submitted for the record.
Mr. DUNCAN. Those will be placed in the record.
Mr. HAASE. Thank you.
The issues and recommendations I'll be discussing come from our pilots who fly both large and small aircraft, both domestically and internationally, and it reflects the Association's concerns going back over some 39 years.
From the pilots' perspective, there are really three points that I'd like to emphasize. First, hazardous materials that present too great a hazard should not be carried on board an aircraft; secondly, undeclared and improperly-packaged hazardous materials which do get loaded on airplanes inadvertently or through other circumstances, and cargo compartments that do not advise when there is a fire or which do not provide the ability to suppress a fire should one occur.
Let me go back over those three points and talk a little bit about the defense approach now the Association takes.
First, we should prohibit carrying hazardous materials that represent a high risk or threat.
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Second, we should conduct airline training and public awareness programs to prevent undeclared or improperly packaged hazardous material items from getting on the aircraft.
Thirdly, if both one and two fail, then the last line of defense is the cargo compartment, itself. We need to have adequate warning of a problemthat's detectionand we need to have the tools to cope with that problemthat's suppression.
We believe that there are serious deficiencies in each of these three areas, and we therefore recommend the following:
First, we believe we should prohibit carrying potentially high-risk chemical oxidizer hazardous materialssubstances like nitric acid that represent an undue risk. Also, we should identify chemical oxidizers that, if carried, must be placed in a compartment equipped with a fire detection system with temperature probes and a fire suppression system.
ALPA believes that prohibiting carriage of all oxidizers may introduce additional hazards. This could inadvertently force shippers into illegally carrying shipping materials as undeclared. Therefore, we believe only certain oxidizers should be prohibited.
Second, with respect to training and education, we believe the FAA should require mandatory initial and recurrent training for airline employees such as storage and maintenance personnel that have contact with those materials intended for transport by air. This includes employees at those airlines that are not certificated to carry hazardous materials. The program must identify components and materials that are considered hazardous materials. It must also point out hazardous materials that are not allowed to be placed on any passenger-carrying or cargo airplane.
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Finally, third, the FAA must require the installation of the fire detection systems that have temperature probes and fire suppression systems in all cargo compartments. They must have improved compliance regarding the integrity of the ceilings and sidewall liners in cargo compartments, especially on those aircraft where you can change the configuration from carrying passengers to cargo and vice versa so that the protection of critical aircraft systems provided by the liners from fire and heat is not compromised.
In summary, the aviation community has experienced enough of these preventable accidents. Except for banning oxygen generators from passenger-carrying airplanes and class D cargo compartments, nothing has really changed in this last year since the ValuJet accident. We believe these recommendations will improve the ability of passengers and flight crews to avoid such hazards or to survive those which cannot be avoided.
I hope my presentation and written statement will provide background information needed to provide additional technical guidance for the FAA for enforcement and for RSPA for issuing rulemaking that will help prevent future hazardous materials accidents.
ALPA remains committed to our professional responsibility for safe transportation of people and goods.
Mr. Chairman, that completes my statement. I'll be pleased to respond to any questions your committee may have.
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Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you very much, Captain Haase.
Mr. QUIRK. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.
I am Brian Quirk, president of Cease-Fire Midwest. Cease-Fire manufactures a patented automatic fire extinguishment product and agent. UL listed since 1988, Cease-Fire has successfully protected offices, factories, and institutions for A, B, and C fires.
We appreciate very much this opportunity to apprise this committee and all parties concerned of how the Cease-Fire extinguishment, both the product and the agent, itself, can solve the public policy issue of an estimated 270 million passengers who currently fly U.S. commercial aircraft without fire protection in the D cargo compartments.
In this regard, we present the Cease-Fire in action. And since one picture is worth a thousand words, here is a ten-second video clip which displays the Cease-Fire extinguishing a 50-square-foot raging fire in less than ten seconds.
One other thingthis is an open fire, which is much more difficult than a confined fire such as in a cargo compartment.
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Mr. QUIRK. You have to look fast, gentlemen, because it's over and out.
And now I would like to present to you what the typical Cease-Fire unit looks like. It goes right in the ceiling. It's self-contained. It's activated automatically by heat or manually by a pilot, for example, in the cockpit.
Cease-Fire is a synergistic combination and blend of both halon and a dry chemical, which is the cause of this unit having this superior fire-fighting coverage.
Now that you understand what a Cease-Fire is and does, permit me to explain how Cease-Fire could benefit the aviation industry and create a win/win for all related groups.
Number one, the public's safety. Cease-Fire provides the immediate solution to fire protection in the D class cargo compartmentsthat's what we're addressingD class cargo compartmentsand the resulting life-safety protection of the 270 million unprotected passengers. You have up at your different desks a copy of the facts that establish that number.
Here's how Cease-Fire does protect these passengers: first of all, Cease-Fire is a proven fire fighter. Secondly, it is a technology which is available now, not 3 years from nownow. And, thirdly, it is affordable and reasonable cost.
Page 119 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We estimate, for example, that for $5,000 to $10,000 of this existing product, depending on the individual compartment size and configuration, we could do an aircraft for $5,000 to $10,000, plus the installation cost, and we position that against what we are hearing this morninganywhere from $135,000 to $190,000. We kind of averaged it out at $150,000, a total of $450 million. We can do the same thing for in the area of $30 million plusthat's for the 3,000plus the cost of the installation, which probablywell, that's not my business to predict that.
The next way that it protects the 270 million unprotected passengers is that it's easy to install. In reference to Congressman DeFazio's mechanic, we install these all day longjust the unit now. I'm not talking about the electrical connections, etc.just the unit in 1 hour.
And then, beyond that, Cease-Fire reduces and saves the halon consumption.
Finally, in the future Cease-Fire will blend effectively with the future-approved EPA and FAA replacement gases.
Number two win/win group is that Cease-Fire satisfies a recent FAA directive which called for highly-efficientthere's no question about that. You saw it right there with your own eyes.
Number two, low toxicityand, incidentally, this is UL listed for occupied or unoccupied areas. I wasn't even going to tell you that because I want to stay under the 5 minutes, but it's UL listed for occupied as well as unoccupied areas, and it's for animals as well as human beings as far as these cargoes are concerned.
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Next, it's environmentally friendlier than straight halon.
Number four, it has minimal cleanup.
Number five, it's compatible with the on-board fire protection equipment.
Number three group that's win/win is the EPA also benefits from a friendlier environment because Cease-Fire uses 85 percent less halon85 percent less halon. That has a lot of benefits that I'm not going even going to go into here now.
Number four, the airlines could fly safer aircraft for their customers and employees cost-effectively.
Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for your courtesy and attention. We respectfully submit that our approach offers a reasonable, logical, and relatively inexpensive solution and is worthy of further investigation to solve this urgent public policy issue.
I thank you and I stand by for any questions that the committee may have.
Mr. DUNCAN. Mr. Quirk, thank you very much for some very fascinating testimony.
Let me just say, you know, when we allowed our Federal Government to explode in size like it has, it slowly but surely started dealing almost entirely with extremely big businesses. Small businesses don't even have a chance.
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If you sold out to one of these huge multi-national corporations or some extremely big company, then you'd have a chance. And I hate to say that because I'm totally opposed to that. But, of course, if you sold out to some big, huge giant conglomerate, then the price would increase so much we'd probably be up there to this $125,000 or $175,000 figure again.
Anyway, we'll get more into that later.
Our next witness is Ms. Sawyer.
Ms. LEE HAMILTON SAWYER. Hello. My name is Lee Hamilton Sawyer, and I lost my parents, Conway and Laurie Hamilton, May 11 on ValuJet 592 as they were traveling to Atlanta to see their granddaughter, my daughter right over here, graduate with the top honor from Emory University.
I am here as a representative of the Association of Families of ValuJet 592. Personally, I was very appalled at the way the families of this tragedy have been treated from the beginning to this day.
As of last Sunday, when we had the memorial for the ValuJet families, Mr. Hall and Mr. Goelz were there. They never said that this meeting was going on today, you know, to give anyone a chance to come up here to testify, because certainly this is our issue with hazardous materials, smoke detectors, and all of this in planes.
It's difficult to rearrange your schedule when you have such a short period of time.
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I know you all are short on time, so I'd like to submit my written statement for the record and go on.
This past Sunday was Mother's Day. It was also the anniversary of the ValuJet Flight 592 disaster. It was not an easy day for me because I lost both my Mom and my Dad on that flight. It's something that never had to happen.
I know you say that there are no cracks in the system. I think there is a Grand Canyon in the system. Something happened that day that the series of events was such that I no longer have parents. I mean, something did happen.
No one had to lose their spouses, mothers or fathers, brothers or sisters, sons or daughters. You all, as a Congress, need to pass legislation now or the FAA has got to mandate now to do something. The time for rhetoric is over; the time for action is here. Action speaks louder than words, as the saying goes, and you all need to do something to make flying safer for everyone.
You would notI mean, when you get on a plane to fly to your home, when I get on the plane this evening to fly to my home, all of us here flying, we're getting on planes that don't have smoke detectors, don't have fire suppressants, and god knows what's in the belly of those planes.
Now, you don't want this for your family, I don't want it for mine, and you all have the opportunity to do something about it.
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Hopefully, you all will take this into account and try to get somebody to move and let's get these things on the plane so that it is better for everyone.
One final thing. Please don't allow another Mother's Day to be a day of mourning for a mother who has lost a child or a child who has lost a mother on a plane because it was carrying hazardous materials and lacked smoke detectors, fire suppressants, and passenger-protective breathing apparatus.
I do thank you for listening to me.
Mr. DUNCAN. Well, Ms. Sawyer, thank you very much for being here today. I'm sure that Mr. Hall was not trying to cover up the fact that this hearing was going on, but we're certainly pleased that you're here today. And thank you for your testimony.
Ms. LEE HAMILTON SAWYER. Can I make one other
Mr. DUNCAN. I can assure you that wemost of us fly a couple of times a week, and our families fly, and we want to try and make these planes as safe as we possibly can.
Yes, did you say you wanted to make one other point?
Ms. LEE HAMILTON SAWYER. Yes, sir. I did want to submit for the record a statement by Victoria Cummock. I brought it up from Miami, and I would like to submit this for the record.
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Mr. DUNCAN. All right. Your full written statement will be placed in the record, and also we'll place any additional material that you wish in the record, as well.
Ms. LEE HAMILTON SAWYER. Thank you.
Mr. DUNCAN. Mr. Lipinski?
Mr. LIPINSKI. No questions at this time.
Mr. DUNCAN. All right. We'll go first to Mr. DeFazio.
Mr. DEFAZIO. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate that.
Mr. Meenan, very compelling testimony here. Being outspoken, I appreciate other people that are outspoken, but I've got a couple of questions.
First, I guess my question would beI'm not even sure how long the ATA has existed. I know you've been around at least 11 years.
Mr. MEENAN. Approximately 60 years.
Mr. DEFAZIO. Okay. Did the ATA take a position on the proposal by the NTSB in 1984 that fire detection systems be installed?
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Mr. MEENAN. To the best of my recollection, we did not take a formal position. We provided a great deal of information to the parties that
Mr. DEFAZIO. Were you supportive? Did you take a position in support?
Mr. MEENAN. As my statement notes, we take a very methodical, deliberate approach to our questions. We try to spend the money where we're going to get the most benefit for the effort that's put forward.
Mr. DEFAZIO. Okay.
Mr. MEENAN. That means prioritizing spending.
Mr. DEFAZIO. Sure. And we'll get to your $100 billion assertion later.
October, 1988, again NTSB made another recommendation after another incident for fire detection systems. Did the ATA take a position at that time in support of that?
Mr. MEENAN. No. ATA has taken the position now that it will move forward as rapidly as
Mr. DEFAZIO. No, no. We're talkingI just want to work up to now.
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Mr. MEENAN. I don't have the facts in front of me at this point on 1988.
Mr. DEFAZIO. All right. So here we're talkingI mean, it's interesting to me. You talk about fix of the hour to the problems that self-declared experts have not taken the time to properly assess and understand. So I guess you would include the NTSB in that category?
Mr. MEENAN. I
Mr. DEFAZIO. Would yousince they've been recommending this for 14 years, you've rather precipitously decided to go ahead voluntarily. I guess I'm not sure what changed. It took you
Mr. MEENAN. I can assure you
Mr. DEFAZIO.14 years to evaluateexcuse me. It took you 14 years to evaluate the need? I mean, what was the substantial change in evidence between 1984, 1988, even last year in May, and the press conference with the Vice President on December 12th? What changed in that time period? Why did theI mean, I would hate to put the ATA in this category of acting precipitously in reaction to public concerns and press releases and jumping to expedient conclusions.
I guess you can either say it took you 14 years to get there, or maybe you sort of jumped because the pressure got too hot.
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Mr. MEENAN. I think it would be fair to say, Mr. DeFazio, that what we did was on the basis of the cost/benefit analysis which was performed, which I realize is easy to fault and easy to question and easy to criticize. We simply continued to look at these issues as everyone else in the United States has looked at these issues. As the circumstances have changed, the ATA has come forward. They've addressed the issues, and we are in the process of moving forward to get the equipment installed as rapidly as we possibly can.
Mr. DEFAZIO. Well, everybody elsesee, I go beyond the beltway. I fly about 200,000 miles a year. I talk to a lot of passengers. People are not aware that we don't have fire detection and suppression devices and that they may be flying with hazardous cargoes.
I think if you put a notice on everybody's ticket and you put a notice in the airport and told them which planes had it and which planes didn't, you would find a big drop-off in people rushing out to fly in the planes that don't have it.
So I would contest the consensus. There may have been an inside-the-beltway consensus between the FAA and the ATA, but there was not a universal consensus among people who fly, because even using your estimatesand if we accept them totally as honest and at face value, and it costs $250 million to do this, that comes to, what, $0.50 per fare-paying passenger for the last year for a onetime installation, and then maybe some maintenance costs of maybe a tenth of a cent or something per year.
So have you ever met an individual in America who would say they wouldn't pay $0.50 to have some indication that they might get there alive?
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I ask people this question all the time because the ATA has been coming in here for years, and any time it costs money it's, ''Oh, we're going to study this. It's going to take longer. Flight duty timeoh, it's going to take longer.'' I mean, I've been hearing these things for years.
But whenever I sit next to someone I say, ''Hey, would you pay an extra buck to be sure that we could land?'' ''Are you kidding me? I'd pay ten.'' I mean, what value do people put on their lives? They put more than $0.50 value.
So I guess my question is, since you have such harsh words for so many people, including the NTSB, of advocating this for so long, why the change of heart now? Did the cost/benefit analysis come out different? What was the difference?
Mr. MEENAN. First of all, there are no harsh words in our statement.
Mr. DEFAZIO. Oh, no, none whatsoever. None whatsoever.
Mr. MEENAN. Our statement says that the way to address safety concerns is through a very deliberate and careful analysis.
Mr. DEFAZIO. For 14 years?
Mr. MEENAN. I would put the record of the Air Transport Association member carriers up to any standard of scrutiny for the safety of their operations. They do it every day. They do it very, very well.
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Mr. DEFAZIO. Was ValuJet a member of your organization?
Mr. MEENAN. No.
The flight duty time issue is a classic case in point. That would have added billions of dollars to the cost of running airlines and it wouldn't have helped safety one bit.
Mr. DEFAZIO. In your opinion.
Mr. MEENAN. In my opinion?
Mr. DEFAZIO. In your opinion, that's good.
Mr. MEENAN. Many of the experts that have looked.
Mr. DEFAZIO. How about the over-wing exits which took us 5 years because of opposition by the industry which the Brits did in 6 months? How about the mounting bolts for seats, which were done to G3 standards in the jets and it took us years to get to that? How about a whole host of things?
Any time it costs money
Mr. MEENAN. Mr. DeFazio
Page 130 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. DEFAZIO.we're going to drag our feet.
Mr. MEENAN. For the last several years, the carriers have been installing 16-G seats on aircraft. One of
Mr. DEFAZIO. We appreciate that. That's nice. How long have planes landed at more than three Gs?
Mr. MEENAN. If you would let me finish my statementduring that time they have done it voluntarily. One of the problems we run into is that when we do things voluntarily is that regulations come along later and require us to redo those things. That leads to a great reluctance and hesitancy to move forward and make these kind of installations on a voluntary basis. That's going on right now with 16G seats. We're trying to work out that issue.
Mr. Hall mentioned this morning the voluntary DFDR work by Southwest Airlines. Unfortunately, what he didn't mention is that apparently the rule is going to come out differently than Southwest Airlines, had reasonably anticipated and as a result they're going to have to go back and redo much of that work.
We're going to have to analyze them and get the kind of fixes that will make the system safer for everybody in an efficient
Mr. DEFAZIO. And apply a common sense rule, andexcuse me, I'll take my time back. I have been very critical of the FAA, but part of the problem is going to rest with the industry because the FAA has been a handmaiden of the industry for years, and so their foot-dragging and their bureaucratic rulemaking has, in many cases, served the interests of the industry because it put off the day when you're finally going to have to do something that costs a little bit of money.
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But I'm willing toand if you have any productive suggestions about how to overhaul the FAA's bureaucratic processes, particularly in a case of retroffiting, like with the Southwest, other things that are common sense where we want to encourage people to go forward, we'd like to know why those 737s are falling out of the air. A lot of people would like to know that.
I think that we should
Mr. MEENAN. I'd be happy to meet with you at your convenience to discuss those kind of steps.
Mr. DEFAZIO. That would be great. Thank you.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you, Mr. DeFazio.
Mr. BLUNT. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Captain, I was wondering, how much time, effort, obligation do captains take and have to determine what's in the cargo hold, the status of what's on the airplane? Is that seen as a captain's responsibility, along with the many other responsibilities?
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Mr. HAASE. Yes, sir. There is an established process of notification to the pilot in command of dangerous goods or hazardous materials that are carried on board a particular flight. So the captain will be notified in writing of what is on his flight and where it is loaded.
Depending upon individual carriers' procedures, he may have to do some verification to assure that the goods that are presented to him are, in fact, allowed to be carried on board his flight and that they are loaded in the proper area and that there is compatibility between those dangerous goods and any other dangerous goods that may be loaded at the same time or may be on the aircraft.
So there is an established procedure in effect to notify the pilot in command and allow him to make that examination.
It is always the pilot in command's decision if there is any question to have that material removed.
Mr. BLUNT. You may have said in your testimonyand I apologize if you did before I got herebut what kind of additional support does the captain need in helping ensure that those responsibilities are really manageable for the captain? And are they in the process in any rules or regulation changes or HAZMAT changes that we're discussing now?
Mr. HAASE. I think the correct response to your question should be this: that if dangerous goods are properly declared and if they are, in fact, properly packaged and the air carriers' representatives ensure that they are properly packaged, ensure that they do meet the shipping requirements, that is the support the flight crew needs so that, when they receive the notification of the goods being loaded on board their aircraft, they know that they meet all those requirements.
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Where we have had difficulties is if the goods are not declared or they're improperly declared, usually the carrier system is very good at getting rid of those goods if they see they're not properly packaged, not properly labeled, or there is some other type of restriction that they should not be shippedlet's say, for instance, on a passenger airplane as opposed to a cargo airplane.
So that part of the process works well. Our difficulty comes in where the goods are not declared or there is no knowledge of the fact that we are carrying dangerous goods such as the example that was mentioned this morning.
Mr. BLUNT. With Continental?
Mr. HAASE. Yes, sir.
Mr. BLUNT. What about the idea of non-compatible materials? Is that handled pretty much in the loading process prior to the time a captain would normally have to get involved in that?
Mr. HAASE. It depends on the particular operation. In some caseslet's say on a passenger aircraft where the goods are being brought aboard in separate, individual, small packages, then the captain can review the material that his carrier provides to him to determine if there is a compatibility problem and if there are any restrictions required to separate those dangerous goods.
Page 134 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC On the other hand, let's say you're on a cargo aircraft where the goods are pre-packaged into a container. Then it really becomes a responsibility of the carrier to make sure that the proper separation is maintained.
Now, those requirements get more technical in detail and we have to trust the proper people are doing the right thing in that regard.
There are, from time to time, differences in interpretation of the rules in that regard, and the Association, as do other parties, participates regularly in industry meetings with the Government and with the dangerous goods shippers to review the various carriage rules.
There is not only a domestic standard, but there is also an international standard through ICAO and IATA that all of the carriers use for the dangerous goods requirements.
Mr. BLUNT. Do you think there's too much obligation put on the captain in the current system, or is it about right?
Mr. HAASE. No. I think the important thing is that there is a process to determine what the goods are, that they are properly labeled, that the goods are checked against the technical requirements and loaded in accordance with those technical requirements.
All of that work, all of that background should be done on behalf of the pilot in command so that all that should be necessary on his part or her part is to review the material that has been presented and be knowledgeable, know how to handle the component or the goods if there should be some type of a problem in flight.
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We carry specific guidance on board that provides that information.
Mr. BLUNT. Ms. Sawyer, from a family perspective, have the Government agencies and the airline met what you would think would be our expectations and your expectations of them to you as a family member, or not?
Ms. LEE HAMILTON SAWYER. At this point, no. My expectationswhat I expected has not been. I never expected, number one, to be in this situation.
Mr. BLUNT. Yes.
Ms. LEE HAMILTON SAWYER. Ignorance is bliss. Not knowing what was on the planesuntil last year, I never knew about hazardous materials, company materials, any of this stuff. I've learned a great deal.
It's an awful lot of people that havesome have shirked their duty, some are negligent, some have tried and just not been able to do it, but somewhere along the line we've got to fix these problems to make it safe for everyone.
Now, hopefully you as a Congress can make the changes. Go down as a Congress and put the smoke detectors in planes and save the flying public because so many people do fly.
Page 136 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I mean, I think at this point I expect you all to do something. I'm demanding it at this point. If not, I'll make that trip back up here and I'll be a thorn in your side again.
But, you know, hopefully we can get some changes made. It's just sad that it has been from 1988 to now that it has taken before finally something is being done. That's why I said before my parents did not have to die. This was an unnecessary accident. Those smoke detectors could have been put in 6 years ago. They had time to study it from 1984 to 1988 and had them on the planes by 1990 or 1992, and I'd still have a mother and father.
Mr. BLUNT. Well, certainly you are here today and represent not only hundreds of family members but thousands of friends of people even in this one instance, just thousands of people whose lives have been affected by the failure of the system to work to provide the protection it needs to. We appreciate your being here today.
Mr. Chairman, thank you for the time.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you, Mr. Blunt.
Mr. LIPINSKI. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Ms. Sawyer, you mentioned in your testimony that you were unhappy with the treatment that you have received?
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Ms. LEE HAMILTON SAWYER. Yes, sir.
Mr. LIPINSKI. And that other members of the victims, the family members of the victims of the ValuJet crash feel the same way. Could you be more specific? Could you give me some examples of what you had anticipated and what has happened to you?
Ms. LEE HAMILTON SAWYER. Well, first of all, when the accident happened you could not get information. At that point the Family Assistance Act had not been passed, too, so let's go back because this was prior to August when that bill was passed. So I findmy son finds out over a television set at Champ's Sporting Goods Store in Lennox Square that a ValuJet plane has gone down. He comes running up to me going, ''Mom, mom.'' I tried calling ValuJet. The first thing they say to me is, ''What's the flight number?'' Now, do I know that flight number? Some man in Kalamazoo, MichiganI don't know whereis saying flight number. ''I can't give you any information.'' Finally, I said it was the flight from Miami. It was supposed to leave around 1:00 and be up in Atlanta by 2:15 or 2:30.
See, all of this came across because the plane was so delayed.
Mr. LIPINSKI. Let me interrupt you. With all due respect to you, though, I understand those problems, and we hope that we have resolved those problems by the legislation that we have passed here. And I realize that there were some problems with ValuJet, and I realize we didn't have the system set up. But it sounded to me like you were talking about continuing from the original crash.
Page 138 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I remember very well the families of victims talking here at hearings and in person coming to see us about the great work that Mr. Peter Goelz and the National Transportation Safety Board was doing in regards to informing the families of the victims what was transpiring, being there for consultation with them, how cooperative they were, so I'm surprised to hear about the problems that perhaps now have surfaced, or perhaps I'm misunderstanding what you were referring to, though.
Ms. LEE HAMILTON SAWYER. Okay. I'll let my daughter also speak.
Mr. LIPINSKI. Sure.
Ms. LEE HAMILTON SAWYER. But we lived in Miami, so we were not at the hotel. Now, if you were not at the hotel under the auspices of ValuJet and the NTSB you knew nothing. Those of us that did have family members5 or 10 familiesliving in Miami got no information. The only information we received was from the media because nobody was there to tell us.
Ms. LAURA SAWYER. I think my Mom is speaking to right after the crash, and I think a lot of what was done in the Family Assistance Act is going to rectify that for future crashes.
What we would like to say is that we feel like the ValuJet 592 crashwe feel like the peoplewe have been ignored, more or less, by Members of Congress, by the media, by everyone, in comparison to the TWA 800 crash.
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People hear TWA 800 and you hear, ''How high can I jump to do something for TWA 800.'' We have been trying to fight this this whole year and we've gotten nowhere.
In fact, on one of the safety subcommittees that is going on right now, members of TWA and other crashes are able to voice their opinions on safety concerns. ValuJet was not consulted, not told about it, and none of our family members are on this subcommittee.
Mr. LIPINSKI. When you say ''ValuJet,'' you're talking about the families of the victims of
Ms. LAURA SAWYER. The families of the victims of Flight 592 have been completely ignored, and all of us are very frustrated and very upset over the fact that nobody seems to care about our voices.
There are definite safety concerns, no matter what anyone here is telling you today. There are definite safety concerns that we, as an American public, and we, as laymen, have to be concerned about, and we are trying to get the word out.
But we feel like our voice has not been listened to the whole time that we've been going through all this.
Mr. DUNCAN. Ma'am, let me interrupt you for just a moment. I know you're Ms. Sawyer's daughter, but would you state your name for the record, because all this is being taken down.
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Ms. LAURA SAWYER. Right. Laura Sawyer, Laura Candace Sawyer.
Mr. LIPINSKI. So what you are saying and what your mother was referring to is that you don't think that Congressional committees, the news media has given you equal opportunity to comment upon safety matters in aviation that Congress and the news media has given to the TWA situation?
Ms. LAURA SAWYER. I would agree with that wholeheartedly. I think we see Membersmy personal opinion is we see Members of Congressnot particularly you, but other Members of Congress and the media look down upon us because it was a low-cost carrier and they assume that the people on ValuJet 592 were poor, uneducated people.
And what we are here to say is that we were not. A lot of the people who died were students. Some were high-powered executives. And we want our equal say when it comes to safety and consideration. That's why our family, in particular, has been so adamant and so vocal about fire detection and safety systems. We're not going to let another 1988 where it just flies by and goes without notice. We're not going to let that happen again. We are going to be here until we see the mandate that something is changed.
Mr. LIPINSKI. I have to say that, speaking for this subcommittee underneath the direction of Chairman Duncan, I think that we have always been very much open to the family victims of the ValuJet situation, and I know that the chairman and I have spent a great deal of time on the ValuJet situation, and, in fact, it is even possible that we've spent more time dealing with ValuJet than we spent in dealing with TWA.
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Now, TWA occurred afterwards, but TWA is still somewhat up in the air.
My chief information gatherer was telling me that we've actually had a number of meetings on ValuJetmany more meetings on ValuJet than we had on the TWA situation.
Ms. LAURA SAWYER. Unfortunately, I don't thinkand this is just a lack of communication, and maybe something in future instances that can be resolved. It's not having to do with this meeting. But the ValuJet families have never gotten any of the information, and that is a definite concern and something that needs to be looked at in the future.
Mr. LIPINSKI. I'm sure if you request any information from Chairman Duncan he would be more than happy to supply it to you.
Ms. LAURA SAWYER. That would be great.
Mr. LIPINSKI. Thank you.
We're going to move on. Mr. Quirk, I want to thank you for being here.
Mr. QUIRK. Yes, sir.
Mr. LIPINSKI. I'm glad that this committee has been able to facilitate giving you the opportunity to present your fire suppression device there.
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Mr. QUIRK. Thank you.
Mr. LIPINSKI. I remember when you and your sons came to visit me in my office back in Chicago. It seemed like a good idea to me, but I sent you out here to discuss the situation with the Aviation Subcommittee staff, both the republican side and the democratic side, to see if your fire suppression device was worthwhile at all. Obviously they must have felt that it was, since you were here testifying today.
I have been impressed with it. I don't want to sound like I'm endorsing it whatsoever, particularly since you come from Illinois and you live very close to my District, but I also want that all out on the record. But I hope that Chairman Duncan is mistaken and that you don't have to sell out to some big conglomerate to be successful.
Thank you for being here today.
Mr. QUIRK. Thank you, Congressman Lipinski and gentlemen.
Mr. LIPINSKI. Mr. Meenan, you made a statement about what Delta is doing, and I didn't quite follow you. Did you say that they don't have an STC at the present time?
Mr. MEENAN. That is my understanding as of this morning. What has gone on here, in order to get an STC there are a number of different ways to approach it. Each carrier could go to the FAA regionally with plans for each individual aircraft configuration in its fleet and we'd have paper flying everywhere.
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Delta properly has gone ahead and, because they had already done some of this work and started this in the region, they've proceeded in that direction. The FAA has asked the ATA carriers to proceed in a different manner, however. They have said, ''We would prefer having the engineering work in support of this done by the original equipment manufacturersBoeing and McDonnell-Douglas, primarilyhaving all of that work submitted to a single FAA office out in Seattle, and keeping these things in a much tighter box, if you will.
That process is going forward and it has never slowed down, but there has been a great deal of confusion created about who is doing what and who is out ahead and all this sort of thing.
The fact is that Delta has done a very, very admirable job in moving forward, and a number of other carriers have, too, but for a variety of technical reasons, if you will, it isn't all in the same place at the same time.
Mr. LIPINSKI. But you do agree with what was said this morning that Delta has been approved by
Mr. MEENAN. As I understand it, that is incorrect.
Mr. LIPINSKI. That is incorrect?
Mr. MEENAN. That is incorrect.
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Mr. LIPINSKI. So you're telling me what the FAA
Mr. MEENAN. They are doing
Mr. LIPINSKI.told us here this morning is incorrect?
Mr. MEENAN. Yes, sir, Mr. Lipinski. My understanding is they are doing testing right now with the FAAand I'm not faulting anybody for this, but this is the most accurate information that I have been given. They are doing the testing leading to the issuance of the supplemental type certificate.
Once that is issued, they can begin installations, they can actually sell those kits, if they are inclined to, to other carriers with similar aircraft.
Mr. LIPINSKI. People went even further this morning saying that, besides having the certificate, they have installed in one plane a
Mr. MEENAN. In order to get the certificate they have to proceed with testing, actualthey make an installation and they do tests.
There are a number of questions that have to be resolved. One of them is the old standard for fire detection equipment wassmoke detection was 5 minutes once the smoke began to form. The new standard is 60 seconds. We are building to the new standard, but there is a safety question that has to be addressed about fleets that might have mixed types of detectors in them, and how do you properly inform the flight crew then that you're on an aircraft that has a one-minute system versus a 5-minute system. That issue has not yet been resolved. That's the kind of thing that is going on right now.
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How you disperse the smoke within the compartment for testing purposes is something else that has not been fully resolved at this point.
There are a lot of technical issues like that that are going forward, they have been going forward since last December and really before then, but there is no STC per se issued to any airline at this point, as I understand it.
Mr. LIPINSKI. Okay. But that may be the case, and I may be able to reconcile what you're saying and what the FAA said because of the way you have further explained it, if you will agree with their statement that they also made that there is one Delta aircraft that has a detection and suppression device on board at the present time.
Mr. MEENAN. That is my understanding, as well.
Mr. LIPINSKI. Okay. So they mayas far as the FAA is concerned, they may have felt that the STC is out there because the two devices are already in the plane and obviously they're testing that, because they even talked about how long it might take to install thisthey didn't know, but they were going to find out. We couldn't possibly find that information out if it hadn't been installed yet.
Mr. MEENAN. These are very technical matters. I think that is a proper interpretation of what they were saying. Technically speaking, the STC has not been issued, as we understand it. Our understanding, in response to your other question, is that detection installation takes on the order of 200 hours, as I said earlier. We are estimating at this pointand it's a very rough estimate, because we're very preliminary right now in deciding how to do detection and suppression simultaneouslythat that may run another 25 to 50 percent higher than that when you add suppression, so we may be talking 300 hours per aircraft.
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Mr. LIPINSKI. Now, you were saying that it takes 7 working days to install
Mr. MEENAN. Several carriers have said to me that in order to do this work in conjunction with ongoing heavy maintenance of the aircraft, they'd need about 7 days total to get that quantity of work performed.
Mr. LIPINSKI. Now, is that just for the detection, or is that for detection and suppression?
Mr. MEENAN. We believe at this point that by bringing these two into synchronization, if you will, that detection and suppression installations can most effectively be made simultaneously. The wiring, for example, that's connected to the detector and to the cockpit would also likely be connected to the suppression equipment.
So if you're opening your airplane up once, it's much more desirable to do all that work in one fell swoop, and it will not significantly delay the effort to get both detection and suppression in place. The delay has been caused, as was noted earlier, by this great degree of confusion that has existed on
Mr. LIPINSKI. Let me ask one more question, because we have another vote, and I'm sure the chairman wants to wrap this up before that time.
You say 7 work days. Is that one person working 8 hours a day for 7 days?
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Mr. MEENAN. I would have to go back. It would seem not, if it takes 200 hours or more to do this, but I didn't ask that specific question of the carrier who told me that. Two hundred man hours is however long it takes one individual to work 200 hours or 5 individuals to work 200 hours, so 7 days
Mr. LIPINSKI. Which tells me absolutely nothing.
Mr. MEENAN. No. I think what they're talking about is that they estimate that's the amount of time the airplane is going to have to be opened up for this purpose, alone.
Mr. LIPINSKI. In conclusion, I simply would like to say to you, as a representative here today of the ATA, I would like to see it done much faster than the 5 years that you're advocating it be done under, and even faster than the 3 years that the FAA wants it done.
Mr. MEENAN. Thank you.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you very much, Mr. Lipinski.
Mr. Meenan, the EPA has now issued a letter saying it does not intend to ban the use of halon, and we've had indications that's going to allow you to proceed now. Is the letter sufficient?
Page 148 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. MEENAN. The letter I think is best described as an excellent start. We are moving forward on the basis of the letter and the assurances we have been given by representatives of the Administration. It is possible and, in fact, likely that we may be coming back to this committee and others seeking legislative ratification of that, as necessary. It's rather early in the process to determine that.
Mr. DUNCAN. Captain Haase, you said earlier that your big problem was not knowing that something hazardous was on your plane. Is there a problem with the passengers unwittingly bringing things that might be hazardous onto a plane, or do you know?
Mr. HAASE. Yes, Mr. Chairman, there is. We have approached this through a number of different venues, including placing leaflets in ticket envelopes to indicate to passengers what is or what is not acceptable to be placed in their baggage that's checked on board aircraft, so there is an education process there for the general public, the traveling public.
Mr. DUNCAN. We heard that airlines that are classified as will-not-carry airlines haven't been required to have their employees have training in the recognition and handling of hazardous materials. Do you know something about that? Are airline employees receiving some of this training in most cases?
Mr. HAASE. I'm not familiar with what may have transpired subsequent to the ValuJet accident, but what I can say is that our position is that even at carriers that do not accept dangerous goods for shipment, in many or most cases they are allowed to ship company materials which may be dangerous goods.
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So there is a need from two standpoints that their employees be knowledgeable and educated, number one. If something which is a dangerous good is shipped and the individual becomes aware of it, they need to know whether or not it's appropriate or what needs to be done with it.
Secondly, if there is COMAT being shipped, they need to be fully knowledgeable with respect to packaging and classifying the COMAT material and the technical requirements associated with that.
Mr. DUNCAN. Let me say, because of our votes, we're going to have to bring this to a conclusion, but I do want to say to the Ms. Sawyer's that I can assure you of one thing: we never did on this subcommittee assume that the victims of the ValuJet crash were poor and uneducated and that somehow that made their lives worth less. I can assure you that never entered in. In fact, the ValuJet crash was involved in two major well-attended, well-publicized hearings that we held back several months ago, and now we're looking at it here again, and we may get into it even more.
The problem that you come into this with, though, is apparently there was human error made by the SabreTech Company, and a low-level employee apparently mislabeling a package. That's an extremely difficult thing to combat, because there is no way that we can outlaw human error and make all human beings perfect. I wish we could.
And all these questions are difficult because we're talking about $500 million here, and if we putwe want to make these planes as safe as possible, but if we just put billions and billions of dollars worth of safety requirements on, then we drive the price of air tickets up so much that we force more people onto our already overcrowded highways, which are much more dangerous than air travel. We'll end up killing many more people, maybe in a less-publicized way.
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But we want to do everything that we possibly can to make these planes as safe as possible.
Mr. Quirk, Mr. Lipinski said that he hoped I was wrong in what I said. I hope I'm wrong in what I said. My point was that this Government has become so big and so bureaucratic, against my wishes, that sometimes small companies have trouble getting the time of day.
I'm sure that you were sitting there shaking your head back and forth, at least inside, when you heard them talk about $190,000 per aircraft. Were you?
Mr. QUIRK. Certainly. I understand what the cost probably is for the type of a system that they are envisioning. That's why ours is so simple that it just seems illogical and almost ludicrous that somebody wouldn't at least take it and see if it works or not, rather than just offhand, ''Well, these are a bunch of goofy guys who don't know what they're talking about.''
Mr. DUNCAN. Let me ask something. Maybe this is unfair to Mr. Meenan, but, Mr. Meenan, would you make me feel a little better and maybe Mr. Quirk a little worse and explain to us very quickly why his system can't be used and we can save all this money?
Mr. MEENAN. Mr. Chairman, with all due respect, nothing is unfair to me. But I don't really know. This is the first I've seen of this technology. We would be happy to engage in further discussion.
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Mr. DUNCAN. I'll tell you what, I think it would be a good thing. Let's at least look into it, because if we can do this in a good way, a good, inexpensive, quick, inexpensive way, let's do it.
Listen, thank you very much, all of you, for being here. You've been very helpful. I'm sorry that we've got to cut this a little bit short, but this has been a great hearing today and I think it's going to lead to some good things. Thank you very much.
Mr. MEENAN. Thank you.
Mr. QUIRK. Thank you, sir.
[Whereupon, at 1:47 p.m., the subcommittee was adjourned, to reconvene at the call of the Chair.]