FAA and Boeing Manipulated 737 Max Tests During Recertification (excerpt)
(Source: The Verge; posted Dec 18, 2020)
By Sean O'Kane
Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) worked together to manipulate 737 Max recertification tests following two fatal crashes in 2018 and 2019, according to a damning new Senate report. Boeing “inappropriately coached” some FAA test pilots to reach a desired outcome during the recertification tests, and some [tests] were even performed on simulators that weren’t equipped to re-create the same conditions as the crashes.
In doing this, the Senate report’s authors say the “FAA and Boeing were attempting to cover up important information that may have contributed to the 737 MAX tragedies.”
The FAA is also accused of retaliating against whistleblowers, possibly obstructing the Office of the Inspector General’s investigation into the crashes, failing to hold senior managers accountable, and allowing Southwest Airlines to operate dozens of improperly certified planes.
The 102-page report, released Friday, was compiled by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation and is built on information from 50 whistleblowers, FAA staff interviews, and more than 15,000 pages of documents. It comes one month after the FAA cleared the 737 Max to return to flight, and as airlines around the world start reintroducing the plane into their fleets.
While Boeing’s own failures leading up to the 737 Max crashes have been thoroughly probed and well-documented, the new Senate report is one of the most intimate looks at problems inside the regulator that was supposed to keep the company in check.
“Our findings are troubling,” Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS), who chairs the committee, said in a statement. “The report details a number of significant examples of lapses in aviation safety oversight and failed leadership in the FAA. It is clear that the agency requires consistent oversight to ensure their work to protect the flying public is executed fully and correctly.”
In a statement, the FAA said it is, “carefully reviewing the document, which the Committee acknowledges contains a number of unsubstantiated allegations.”
“Working closely with other international regulators, the FAA conducted a thorough and deliberate review of the 737 MAX,” the FAA’s statement continued. “We are confident that the safety issues that played a role in the tragic accidents involving Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 have been addressed through the design changes required and independently approved by the FAA and its partners.” (The FAA has not posted this statement, not any other pertaining to the Senate report, on its website--Ed.)
Boeing said in a prepared statement that it “take[s] seriously the Committee’s findings and will continue to review the report in full. “Boeing is committed to improving aviation safety, strengthening our safety culture, and rebuilding trust with our customers, regulators, and the flying public,” the company wrote. (end of excerpt)
Click here for the full story, on The Verge website.
Wicker Releases Committee’s FAA Investigation Report
(Source: US Senator Roger Wicker; issued Dec. 18, 2020)
U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, today released the Committee’s investigation report on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
This investigation began in April of 2019, weeks after the second of two tragic crashes of Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, when Committee staff began receiving information from whistleblowers disclosing numerous concerns related to aviation safety.
“Twenty months ago, the Commerce Committee launched an investigation into FAA safety oversight. We have received disclosures from more than 50 whistleblowers, conducted numerous FAA staff interviews, and reviewed over 15,000 pages of relevant documents,” said Wicker. “Our findings are troubling. The report details a number of significant examples of lapses in aviation safety oversight and failed leadership in the FAA. It is clear that the agency requires consistent oversight to ensure their work to protect the flying public is executed fully and correctly.”
Some of the report’s more significant findings include:
-- FAA senior managers have not been held accountable for failure to develop and deliver adequate training in flight standards, despite repeated findings of deficiencies over several decades.
-- The FAA continues to retaliate against whistleblowers instead of welcoming their disclosures in the interest of safety.
-- The Department of Transportation Office of General Counsel (DOT OGC) failed to produce relevant documents requested by Chairman Wicker as required by Article I, Section I of the Constitution.
-- The FAA repeatedly permitted Southwest Airlines to continue operating dozens of aircraft in an unknown airworthiness condition for several years. These flights put millions of passengers at risk.
-- During 737 MAX recertification testing, Boeing inappropriately influenced FAA human factor simulator testing of pilot reaction times involving a Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) failure.
-- FAA senior leaders may have obstructed a DOT OIG review of the 737 MAX crashes.
The Commerce Committee released a fact sheet highlighting information on improper issuance of airworthiness certificates for 88 Southwest Airlines airplanes in November, 2019. Chairman Wicker also sent a letter to FAA Administrator Stephen Dickson expressing concern about these aircraft.
In January of 2020, another fact sheet was released on alleged misconduct by FAA managers at the Flight Standards District Office in Honolulu, Hawaii. An update to this fact sheet was posted on June 17, 2020.
The Committee is still reviewing the ongoing production of requested documents from the FAA and additional information received from whistleblowers.
to read the Committee’s report, which includes a one-page executive summary and a six-page overview.
Boeing Statement on the Senate Commerce Committee Report on Aviation Safety Oversight
(Source: Boeing Co.; issued Dec. 18, 2020)
CHICAGO --- Boeing is committed to improving aviation safety, strengthening our safety culture, and rebuilding trust with our customers, regulators, and the flying public. We take seriously the Committee’s findings and will continue to review the report in full.
We have learned many hard lessons from the Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Flight 302 accidents, and we will never forget the lives lost on board. The events and lessons learned have reshaped our company and further focused our attention on our core values of safety, quality, and integrity.
Over the past twenty years, commercial aviation has become the safest form of travel in the world due to a commitment – by industry, the FAA, and Congress – to a fact-based, evidence-driven approach to improving safety.