U.S. transport chief names aviation safety advisory panel

FILE PHOTO: Elaine Chao, U.S. Secretary of Transportation speaks at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit 2019 (GES 2019) in The Hague, Netherlands June 4, 2019. REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao on Thursday named 22 people to a new panel that will advise the department on aviation safety oversight and certification programs as the Federal Aviation Administration continues to grapple with the fallout from two fatal Boeing 737 MAX crashes.

The long-time practice of the FAA delegating certification tasks to aircraft manufacturers has come under criticism after the two 737 MAX crashes in five months.

The panel, created last year by Congress, will offer input on “aircraft and flight standards certification processes, oversight of safety management systems, risk-based oversight efforts, and utilization of delegation and designation authorities,” the department said.

The panel will be chaired by former Alaska Airlines Chief Executive William Ayer. It includes officials from Delta Air Lines DAL.N, GE Aviation GE.N, United Airlines UAL.O, Bell Helicopter Textron TXT.N, Garmin GRMN.O, Wing Aviation LLC, Pratt & Whitney - a unit of United Technologies Corp UTX.N - and Gulfstream - a unit of General Dynamics Corp GD.N - as well as union, airport and trade association officials.

Beth Pasztor, vice president for safety, security and compliance at Boeing Commercial Airplanes BA.N, is also on the panel.

Federal prosecutors, the Department of Transportation’s inspector general, Congress and several blue-ribbon panels are investigating how the FAA certifies new aircraft and the decision to certify the 737 MAX. Last month, U.S. National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Robert Sumwalt said his agency would outline recommendations on the FAA’s aircraft certification procedures by late September.

Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Dan Grebler