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Sen. Cruz is right to ask whether the FAA is too close to the aviation industry

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz has called for an investigation into why the Federal Aviation Administration certified the Boeing 737 Max and whether the agency is getting too close to the corporations it regulates. The Texas Republican is right.

After two of the new 737 Max airplanes crashed, aviation regulators around the world grounded the planes. The FAA took longer to do so, and Cruz said at a speech to the Texas Lyceum that’s a concern. Cruz held hearings on the state of aviation safety in his role as chairman of the Senate subcommittee on aviation and space.

We expect regulators of our most important industries to minimize red tape that can choke commerce. And we also expect regulators to remain independent of the industries they oversee and to create firm, fair rules that protect the public. Because as Cruz warned, public safety is paramount, but so is the trust of the flying public.

At issue with the 737 Max is that Boeing included a new software system that, according to media reports about initial reviews of the accidents, pilots couldn’t override in the same way as prior versions of the plane. Pilot training materials didn’t include training on overriding the software system.

“Why didn’t they require training of the pilots to understand this system,” Cruz said at the Lyceum conference. He said he has “questions about agency capture, about the FAA getting too close. Look Boeing is a huge job producer, a huge supplier.”

Cruz also said he’s in favor of passing a bill to fund more infrastructure projects, and he’s hopeful a bill could pass because of bipartisan support in an otherwise sharply divided Congress. He said a bill is an opportunity for Texas to get a larger share of federal infrastructure funds at a time of rapid growth, and a bill could allow lawmakers to reduce some regulations that slow down construction of roads and pipelines.

“My priorities are, No. 1, Texas needs to get our fair share. The money needs to flow where the need is. The population is growing like crazy, the jobs are growing like crazy, the energy is growing like crazy, the commerce is growing like crazy,” he said.

We’ll leave for another editorial speculation about whether meaningful infrastructure legislation is possible in Washington just now, but it’s worth pausing on the senator’s points about the FAA. This kind of government work doesn’t grab as many headlines, but it’s crucial to public trust. Getting to the bottom of precisely what is happening with this jetliner and why is the essential task we ask of officials in Washington. Air safety needs to be a bipartisan issue.

– The Dallas Morning News