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Schumer calls for suspending Boeing from federal aviation advisory panel, citing crash probe of two jets

There is an ongoing federal investigation into the cause of two crashes of Boeing's 737 Max aircraft, in which more than 300 people were killed.

Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 MAX aircraft are parked

Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 MAX aircraft are parked on the tarmac after being grounded, at the Southern California Logistics Airport in Victorville, Calif., on Thursday. Photo Credit: AFP / Getty Images / Mark Ralston

Sen. Chuck Schumer on Sunday called on the Federal Aviation Administration to suspend Boeing officials from a federal advisory committee amid an ongoing investigation into two fatal plane crashes involving the company’s 737 Max line.

Schumer (D-N.Y.), in a letter to acting FAA Administrator Daniel Elwell, said he should “suspend and/or update the public on Boeing’s membership” on the Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee as the FAA investigates a pair of deadly crashes involving Boeing 737 Max airplanes in Ethiopia and Indonesia. President Donald Trump ordered the FAA to ground the line of planes earlier this month after dozens of other countries barred the planes from flying over their airspace in response to the pair of crashes.

The advisory committee is tasked with providing “advice and recommendations concerning a full range of aviation-related issues,” according to the FAA website.

“It makes no sense for Boeing —or any company for that matter— to be involved in an active investigation surrounding questions of safety while also retaining ‘membership’ on a federal committee that recommends airline industry regulations,” Schumer said in a statement. “That is why I am demanding the FAA both suspend Boeing from this committee and any others until the formal investigation has ended, and to also answer serious questions I have raised.”

FAA spokesman Jim Peters in an email Sunday said: "We have not received the senator’s request and when we do, we’ll provide a thoughtful response."

Boeing did not immediately return emails seeking comment on Sunday.

The advisory committee’s charter caps the number of members to 30 individuals, but the FAA website does not specify how many members currently belong to the group, or who has been appointed, prompting calls by Schumer for more “transparency.”

Schumer, who serves as Senate minority leader, called on Elwell to “make public who else sits on the committee (all airline and industry members) and release the minutes of each and every meeting since the Trump administration took office." He also called on the administrator to “commit to reforming the entire FAA committee by examining the member selection process, transparency, and potential conflicts of interest so the public and Congress know who is making regulatory decisions at the FAA — and for what reasons.”

“Congress and the public expect instant access and transparency in order to assess safety concerns and potential conflicts of interest at the FAA,” Schumer said in his letter.

Schumer has previously spoken out against the advisory committee, citing news reports that indicate the panel previously recommended 300 existing regulations that it believed could be cut.

“These suggestions [of proposed cuts in regulations] are not posted online and an update on where they presently exist in the regulatory queue is unavailable for easy access,” Schumer said on Sunday.

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