Lion Air and the Ethiopian Airlines aircraft lacked two safety features that FAA did not make standard and Boeing treated as optional


Washington (April 11, 2019) – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), a member of the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, today introduced the Safety is Not for Sale Act, legislation that would require air carriers to adopt additional safety features and ensure all non-required safety enhancing equipment is offered or provided to air carriers without an additional charge. The two 737 MAX 8 aircraft involved in the Lion Air crash and the Ethiopian Airlines crash lacked two safety features that could have helped the pilots and aviation mechanics recognize false readings from the sensors connected to the aircraft’s new flight control system.  The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and other aviation regulators did not require these features to come standard on the 737 MAX 8 and 9, and Boeing treated these systems as optional features that airlines could purchase for an additional fee.


“For Boeing, safety features that could have saved 346 lives on two of their 737 MAX 8s were yet another profit center, deemed optional like premium seats, extra bathrooms, or fancy lighting,” said Senator Markey. “Aviation safety cannot be a luxury that is bought and sold for an extra fee, but a standard part of our fleets, engrained in every bolt, sensor, and line of code on an aircraft. The Safety is Not for Sale Act will ensure that all safety-enhancing equipment is never sold as a la carte add-ons.”


A copy of the Safety Is Not for Sale Act can be found HERE.


The following Senators have cosponsored Senator Markey’s legislation: Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), and Tina Smith (D-Wisc.).


“The Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l applauds the introduction of the Safety Is Not for Sale Act, a bill that would make additional safety information available to airline pilots in the cockpit and provide airlines with more safety data about the equipment they operate, while also making onboard safety enhancements easier to acquire,” said Capt. Joe DePete, president of the Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l. “To protect the passengers, crews, and cargo we fly, the U.S. airline industry must constantly enhance the equipment, processes, training, and procedures that have made commercial air transportation the safest mode of transportation in history.”


“When grieving the loss of a loved one following an aircraft accident, no one ever talks about the great ticket price they paid. Safety is presumed not for sale,” said Sara Nelson, International President of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, AFL-CIO. “These Senators are proposing legislation that is fundamental to confidence in air travel and the expectation that U.S. aviation is a world leader in aviation safety. Our lives and our jobs depend on the core principle that safety is priceless, just like every soul on the plane.”


“State of the art safety technology should be standard equipment on all aircraft,” said Sally Greenberg, Executive Director, National Consumers League. “If this bill were law, it could have saved hundreds of lives and prevented the recent tragic loss of life.  We strongly support Senator Markey’s “Safety is Not for Sale Act” which will protect the flying public.” 


In March, Senator Markey led a letter with 16 of his Senate colleagues calling on Boeing to offer or provide all safety-enhancing equipment without an additional charge to air carriers. Regrettably, Boeing declined to commit to offering or providing safety-essential equipment without an additional charge.


A copy of Boeing’s response can be found HERE.