Estes concerned about Kansas aviation industry impacted by Boeing production halt

With release last week of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) findings in its aircraft certification process review — spurred by the crashes of two Boeing 737 MAX 8 airplanes that claimed a total of 346 lives — U.S. Rep. Ron Estes (R-KS) urged the agency to define a clear process for recertifying Boeing, which halted production of the aircraft, negatively impacting the aviation industry in the congressman’s home state of Kansas.

The findings were released on Jan. 16 by the Special Committee to Review the Federal Aviation Administration’s Aircraft Certification Process, formed in April 2019 by the U.S. Secretary of Transportation to conduct an objective review of the FAA procedures for product certification and the processes followed by the FAA and Boeing during the certification of the 737 MAX 8.

The Special Committee generally found that “the FAA’s aircraft certification process was followed by the FAA and Boeing in the certification of the 737 MAX 8; however, again, there is opportunity for improvement in multiple areas.”

Meanwhile, Boeing’s production halt of its 737 MAX 8 forced Wichita, Kan.-based Spirit AeroSystems on Jan. 10 to announce 2,800 layoffs. Rep. Estes represents the state’s Fourth District, which is home to Wichita, also known as the Air Capital of the World, he said.

“Aviation manufacturing is not only vital to our economy, but also our community and way of life,” Rep. Estes wrote in a Jan. 14 letter sent to FAA Administrator Steve Dickson. “Although Wichita is likely the community in the United States that is hardest hit by the production halt, dozens of suppliers throughout Kansas and the country are also seeing the economic detriment that the 737 MAX grounding continues to bear.”

The congressman wrote that he wholeheartedly supports the FAA’s mission to ensure the safety of the Boeing aircraft so that passengers’ trust is restored. But he also pointed out, “Until recertification is complete, thousands of workers will continue to face unemployment.”

And he also expressed concern that the FAA’s process for returning the 737 MAX to service isn’t guided by a defined process that contains standards, expectations and a schedule, “leaving manufacturers, suppliers and air carriers wondering what other prerequisites the FAA will demand and for how long their livelihoods will be impacted.”

Rep. Estes wrote that he looks forward to working with the FAA to resolve the ongoing issue.