Senate Report Blasts FAA and Boeing Over Max Recertification
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KEVELAIR The Senate report alleges that Boeing pressured FAA test pilots in human factors evaluation of the 737 Max's Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation.December 19, 2020, 5:39 AM
A new U.S. Senate report on safety oversight issues relating to the recertification of the grounded Boeing 737 Max airliner has issued strong criticism of both the FAA and the manufacturer. Among the main conclusions from the Commerce Committee report published late on Friday is that Boeing “inappropriately influenced” FAA pilots conducting human factor simulation testing of flight crew reaction times to a failure in the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) identified as a key factor in the two fatal accidents that led to the grounding of the aircraft.
Boeing did not respond directly to the allegation raised in a report titled Aviation Safety Oversight. In a written statement, the company said, “We take seriously the committee’s findings and we continue to review the report in full.”
The main focus of the report is on allegations first raised by whistleblowers that multiple aspects of the FAA’s role in the re-certification process were “insufficient” and “improper.”
“The investigation revealed that these trends were often accompanied by retaliation against those who report safety violations and a lack of effective oversight, resulting in a failed FAA safety management culture,” the committee concluded in the report’s executive summary.
Apart from the allegation that Boeing exerted undue influence on recertification testing, the report issued five main conclusions. It found that FAA senior managers have not been held accountable for their failure to deliver adequate flight standards training and that the agency “continues to retaliate against whistleblowers instead of welcoming their disclosures in the interests of safety.”
The committee, chaired by Senator Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi), also alleged that the FAA allowed Southwest Airlines to continue operating 88 Max aircraft “in an unknown airworthiness condition” between 2013 and 2017. The report said that the lives of millions of passengers had been put at risk due in the process.
Chairman Wicker specifically complained that the Department of Transportation Office of General Counsel failed to produce relevant documents. The report also claimed that FAA senior leaders might have obstructed a review of the Max accidents conducted by the department’s Office of Inspector General.
The committee said that FAA has responded to fewer than half of the 30 specific requests for information. It added that the agency has failed to make all requested employees available for interview. From the interviews conducted with FAA staff, the report highlighted “inconsistencies, contradictions and in one case possible lack of candor.”
The committee said that it is still reviewing information received from additional whistleblowers and pressing the FAA for all requested information.
The agency lifted the grounding of the U.S.-registered 737 Max fleet on November 18, and its Brazilian counterpart followed suit a few days later. However, EASA and Transport Canada are taking longer to review proposed airworthiness directives, which are expected to be issued in January.
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