NJ Senators: Airplane Inspections Yet Another Issue The FAA Must Address Before Hold Of Nominee Will Be Released

NJ Senators: Airplane Inspections Yet Another Issue The FAA Must Address Before Hold Of Nominee Will Be Released

Senators Menendez and Lautenberg have blocked confirmation due to litany of issues involving safety and efficiency in NJ airspace

Washington - Today, as neglect of airline inspections took center stage at a Congressional hearing, New Jersey Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) say they are adding it to the list of issues the Federal Aviation Administration must resolve before they would consider lifting their holds on the nomination for FAA Administrator. The senators announced in February that they were placing holds on the nomination of FAA Acting Administrator Robert Sturgell to be the permanent Administrator, citing his agency's lack of action on a number of air safety and efficiency concerns, particularly within the congested New Jersey airspace.

"The Federal Aviation Administration has lost focus of its mission," said Senator Menendez. "It needs a serious reminder that it exists to the keep to flying public safe, not to get cozy with the airlines. The list of major concerns that this out-of-touch agency must address just keeps on growing. The common thread though all of these problems is a lack of leadership at the agency. I will make sure that Mr. Sturgell's nomination does not see the light of day until this list of issues is addressed."

"Major changes are needed at the FAA. The recent safety problems are just the latest evidence that new leadership and strong enforcement of our safety laws are needed to make air travel safe for passengers," Senator Lautenberg said. "The problem is that the Bush Administration's FAA has too often chosen airlines over passengers and the public, whether it's failing to inspect their planes, allowing them to over-schedule flights or redesigning the flight patterns over New Jersey. As the FAA's second-in-command, Mr. Sturgell helped create many of these poor policies and he must be held accountable."

Today's hearing in the House Transportation Committee includes whistleblowers testifying that Southwest Airlines was permitted to skip inspections of aircraft because of a close relationship with certain FAA officials.

Among the issues that the New Jersey senators raised when the hold was first placed on Sturgell were:

• Airspace redesign - without listening to public feedback, the FAA rushed into a plan for new flight paths into and out of Newark Liberty International Airport and Philadelphia International Airport that promises to increase the noise level for thousands of New Jersey residents without substantially reducing flight delays.

• Air traffic controllers - there is serious concern that the not enough air traffic controllers with the experience necessary to manage the nation's busiest airspace are on staff in the region, but the FAA has only attempted to justify the staffing levels rather than remedying them.

• Near misses - reports of near misses on the runway at Newark and in the air are increasing, which was underscored by a Government Accountability Office report Senator Lautenberg requested that showed that Newark has among the most runway incursions in the nation.

• Minimum fuel landings - both Senators wrote the FAA last year about reports of a dramatic increase in flights coming in to Newark with only a minimum amount of fuel left in the tank, but the FAA still has not been able to produce statistics or an adequate answer.