The ranking members of the House Public Works and Transportation subcommittee on aviation complained yesterday that four major airline safety rules have been bottled up in the Reagan administration's regulatory review process.
Rep. Norman Y. Mineta (D-Calif.), subcommittee chairman, and Rep. John Paul Hammerschmidt (R-Ark.) wrote Transportation Secretary Elizabeth Hanford Dole that there is "a serious backlog of safety regulatory actions" already cleared by the Federal Aviation Administration to its parent department.
One of the four rules cited, however, was cleared by the department on Tuesday. The other three are pending in various form with either Dole's office or the Office of Management and Budget, which also reviews all regulations. Those three have been touted by Dole as part of the solution to the problem of fire safety on airliners.
The cleared item is a proposed rule, sent to the department last Sept. 24, that would require airlines to provide better emergency medical equipment on their planes. Current rules mandate only that airliners carry a first-aid kit. The proposed regulation would require such basics as a stethoscope and a blood pressure cuff. Syringes, a scalpel and a limited number of drugs to treat common emergencies would also be required.
The pending fire-safety rules that Mineta and Hammerschmidt cited have been much discussed and promised since a June 1983 Air Canada blaze that claimed 23 lives during and after an emergency landing in Cincinnati. Those items are:
* A final regulation requiring automatic fire extinguishers in lavatory waste bins, smoke detectors in lavatories and galleys, and an increased number of on-board portable extinguishers. The FAA forwarded that rule to the DOT Dec. 31.
* A proposed flammability standard for materials used in airline cabins, also forwarded Dec. 31.
* A proposed rule to improve protective breathing equipment for the flight crew and strengthen training in fighting on-board fires. That proposed rule was sent to the department last Oct. 31.
Last year, FAA Administrator Donald D. Engen asked Congress not to write the requirements into law, and promised that they would be implemented according to a timetable he provided. Engen was asked to send Congress monthly reports on several cabin safety matters.
"In general, the administrator is meeting the timetable he established," Mineta and Hammerschmidt wrote. ". . . Further delay or obstruction is unacceptable."
Dole, whose attention has been riveted on the Conrail ownership issue for months, has a reputation for carefully studying issues over extended periods. Her office declined to comment until it has seen the letter.