HASC Backs Commission to Look Into Flight Safety, Physiological Problems

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) presides over the committee's markup of defense authorization legislation. Screenshot photo.

The House Armed Services Committee Wednesday moved to create a commission to look into aviation flight safety, unexplained physiological effects faced by Air Force and other military pilots, and delays in aviation maintenance.

The moves came as the committee began its consideration of its version of the Fiscal 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, taking up and expanding an amendment earlier proposed by Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), the committee’s senior minority member, to set up the aviation flight safety commission. Its purpose was expanded beyond aviation safety through an amendment to Smith’s language proposed by committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas).

Approval of the combined amendment came as the committee dealt with more than 100 amendments to the authorization legislation through the opening session.

The amendment, as approved by the committee, would insert language establishing the eight-member commission, four of whose members would be appointed by the President, one each appointed by the chairman and ranking minority member of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees.

The commission would be directed to undertake a study of US military aviation mishaps between Fiscal 2013 and 2018 that would be aimed at comparing mishaps during that period to historic rates. The commission would make recommendations on any modifications of safety or other policies related to military aviation safety. It also would be directed to issue a report to the President and congressional defense committees by June 1, 2019, setting forth its findings and any recommendations it has for further action.

It would also express as the sense of Congress that the Defense Secretary should take “every immediate action” to make needed repairs to aviation systems and raise pilot training and proficiency without increasing risk to flight safety.