FAA, Boeing cultures led to 737 Max disasters

The report was released on the same day that the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation is scheduled to take up a bill introduced by Commerce Chairman Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and ranking member Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., that would overhaul the FAA’s aircraft certification process by, in part, giving the agency authority to hire or remove Boeing employees tasked with FAA certification duties. 

Ranking member Sam Graves, R-Mo., and Aviation Subcommittee ranking member Garret Graves, R-La., said they will listen to nonpartisan reports and investigations as they work to address the accidents but said the Democratic staff’s investigation “began by concluding that our system was broken and worked backwards from there.”

“We continue to focus squarely on the nonpartisan reports and investigations and the improvements they have identified, and none of them have concluded that the U.S. certification system is fundamentally broken or in need of wholesale reform,” they said.

Still, DeFazio on Tuesday said he is working with Republicans to craft legislation responding to the report’s findings. He said the legislation would examine an FAA process that allows Boeing employees to certify parts of its aircraft, but he does not plan to “scrap” the process altogether. 

The 737 Max has been grounded since March 2019, and Chicago-based Boeing, which faces lawsuits and a criminal investigation, has reeled in the aftermath of the crisis, which has been worsened by the steep drop in airline ridership caused by the coronavirus pandemic. 

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U.S. House Report Blasts Failures of Boeing, FAA in 737 MAX Certification | Top News

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – An 18-month investigation by a U.S. House panel blasted Boeing Co

and the Federal Aviation Administration over the 737 MAX which has been grounded since March 2019 after two fatal crashes killed 346 people.

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Democratic majority found numerous missteps in a nearly 250-page final report released Wednesday into the troubled plane’s development.

“Boeing failed in its design and development of the MAX, and the FAA failed in its oversight of Boeing and its certification of the aircraft,” the report says, detailing a litany of problems in the plane’s design and the government’s approval of the plane.

The review found the crashes “were not the result of a singular failure, technical mistake, or mismanaged event.”

“They were the horrific culmination of a series of faulty technical assumptions by Boeing’s engineers, a lack of transparency on the part of Boeing’s management, and grossly insufficient oversight by the FAA — the pernicious result of regulatory capture on the part of the FAA.”

Boeing said in a statement it “learned many hard lessons as a company from the accidents… and from the mistakes we have made. As this report recognizes, we have made fundamental changes to our company as a result, and continue to look for ways to improve.”

FAA said in a statement it will work with lawmakers “to implement improvements identified in its report.” It added it is “focused on advancing overall aviation safety by improving our organization, processes, and culture.”

The report said Boeing made “faulty design and performance assumptions” especially surrounding a key safety system, called MCAS, which was linked to both the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines crashes.

MCAS, which was designed to help counter a tendency of the MAX to pitch up, could activate after data from only a single sensor.

The report criticized Boeing for withholding “crucial information from the FAA, its customers, and 737 MAX pilots” including “concealing the very existence of MCASfrom 737 MAX pilots.”

FAA is requiring a number of new safeguards to MCAS, including requiring it receive data from two sensors, before it allows the MAX to return to service.

The report cited instances where Boeing employees granted permission to represent interests of the FAA “failed to disclose important information to the FAA that could have enhanced the safety of the 737 MAX.”

Boeing did not disclose the existence of MCAS in crew manuals and sought to convince regulators not to require more expensive simulator training for MAX pilots. In January, Boeing agreed to back simulator training before pilots resume flights.

The report said the FAA “failed to ensure the safety of the traveling public.”

Lawmakers have proposed numerous reforms to restructure how the FAA oversees airplane certification. A Senate committee will take up a reform bill Wednesday.

Lawmakers suggested Boeing was motivated to cut costs and move quickly to get the 737 MAX to market.

“This is a tragedy that never should have happened,” House Transportation Committee chairman Peter DeFazio told reporters. “We’re

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House panel blasts Boeing and FAA over fatal 737 Max crashes

A House committee issued a scathing report Wednesday questioning whether Boeing and government regulators have recognized the problems that caused two deadly 737 Max jet crashes and whether either will be willing to make significant changes to fix them.

Staff members from the Democrat-controlled Transportation Committee blamed the crashes that killed 346 people on the “horrific culmination” of failed government oversight, design flaws and a lack of action at Boeing despite knowing about problems.

The committee identified many deficiencies in the Federal Aviation Administration approval process for new jetliners. But both the agency and Boeing have said certification of the Max complied with FAA regulations, the 246-page report said.

“The fact that a compliant airplane suffered from two deadly crashes in less than five months is clear evidence that the current regulatory system is fundamentally flawed and needs to be repaired,” the staff wrote in the report released early Wednesday.

The report highlights the need for legislation to fix the approval process and deal with the FAA’s delegation of some oversight tasks to aircraft manufacturer employees, said Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio, D-Oregon.

“Obviously the system is inadequate,” DeFazio said. “We will be adopting significant reforms.”

He wouldn’t give details of possible changes, saying committee leaders are in talks with Republicans about legislation. He said the committee won’t scrap the delegation program, and he hopes to reach agreement on reforms before year’s end.

The Senate Commerce Committee on Wednesday could make changes to a bipartisan bill introduced in June giving the FAA more control over picking company employees who sign off on safety decisions. One improvement may be that a plane with significant changes from previous models would need more FAA review.

The House report stems from an 18-month investigation into the October 2018 crash of Lion Air flight 610 in Indonesia and the crash of Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 in March of 2019. The Max was grounded worldwide shortly after the Ethiopia crash. 

Regulators are testing planes with revamped flight control software, and Boeing hopes to get the Max flying again late this year or early in 2021.

The investigators mainly focused on the reason Boeing was able to get the jet approved with minimal pilot training: It convinced the FAA that the Max was an updated version of previous generation 737s.

But in fact, Boeing equipped the plane with software called MCAS, an acronym for Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, which automatically lowers the plane’s nose to prevent an aerodynamic stall. Initially, pilots worldwide weren’t told about the system, which Boeing said was needed because the Max had bigger, more powerful engines that were placed further forward on the wings than in the older 737s.

In both

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House Democrats blast Boeing for ‘inexcusable’ failure to disclose 737 MAX failings

The report charges that the congressionally mandated delegation system that allows aircraft manufacturers to approve their own designs as safe, under FAA supervision, is rife with inherent conflicts of interest. For instance, aircraft manufacturers supervise and pay the salaries of the people that are supposed to be the “eyes and ears of the FAA” — resulting in what committee Democrats call “regulatory capture on the part of the FAA,” leading to failures of oversight.

In four instances, the committee found that the FAA’s representatives at Boeing, working as part of the Organization Designation Authorization (ODA) program, “failed to represent the interests of the FAA” and allowed corporate cost-cutting priorities to color their judgment.

House Transportation Chair Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) told reporters Tuesday that his legislation is “not going to scrap the whole [ODA] process“ but that he does plan on “adopting significant reforms.”

“Both FAA and Boeing came to the conclusion that the certification of the MAX, which killed 346 people in two accidents just a few months apart, was ‘compliant,’” DeFazio said. “But the problem is it was compliant but not safe, and people died. Obviously the system is inadequate.”

The committee found that Boeing was determined not to let differences between the older 737 NG aircraft and the new 737 MAX be deemed significant enough to require simulator training for pilots transitioning to the new aircraft, as that level of training would cost Boeing as much as $1 million per plane. As a result, the impact of the new flight control system, called the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), had to be downplayed. FAA representatives at Boeing went along with this and did not clue the agency in to the real impact of the changes, even as they privately expressed reservations.

In a May 2013 strategy meeting, Boeing officials discussed the “problem” that “every new buzzword represents a company and airline cost via changed manuals, changed training, changed maintenance manuals.“ The recommended action that arose was to “investigate deletion of MCAS nomenclature and cover under the umbrella of ‘revised speed trim.’”

The committee said it appears that both the FAA’s designee to Boeing and the team manager agreed to keep “referring to MCAS by name internally“ and “externally we would communicate it as an addition to Speed Trim.”

Boeing has disputed this account, but the committee asserts that since that 2013 meeting, “Boeing has, in fact, repeatedly characterized MCAS as an addition to speed trim.“ As a result, pilots were left largely in the dark about significant changes to the aircraft.

Those designated safety representatives were also aware that faulty sensors giving incorrect readings of the angle of the airplane could repeatedly trigger the MCAS in a way that could make the plane hard to control, but did not inform the FAA. The “mandatory” alert that’s supposed to warn pilots when the sensors are in disagreement — indicating a possible sensor malfunction — were inoperable in fully 80 percent of the MAX planes. Still, FAA designees knowingly delivered

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House Report Condemns Boeing and F.A.A. in 737 Max Disasters

The two fatal crashes that killed 346 people aboard Boeing’s 737 Max and led to the worldwide grounding of the plane were the “horrific culmination” of engineering flaws, mismanagement and a severe lack of federal oversight, the Democratic majority on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee said in a report on Wednesday.

The report, which condemns both Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration for safety failures, concludes an 18-month investigation based on interviews with two dozen Boeing and agency employees and an estimated 600,000 pages of records. Over more than 200 pages, the Democrats argue that Boeing emphasized profits over safety and that the agency granted the company too much sway over its own oversight.

“This is a tragedy that never should have happened,” Representative Peter A. DeFazio of Oregon, the committee chairman, said. “It could have been prevented, and we’re going to take steps in our legislation to see that it never happens again.”

Representative Sam Graves of Missouri, the committee’s top Republican, said that while change was needed, congressional action should be based on nonpartisan recommendations, “not a partisan investigative report.”

The report was issued as the F.A.A. appeared close to lifting its grounding order for the Max after test flights this summer. F.A.A. clearance could lead aviation authorities elsewhere to follow suit and allow the plane to fly again as soon as this winter.

The congressional report identified five broad problems with the plane’s design, construction and certification. First, the race to compete with the new Airbus A320neo led Boeing to make production goals and cost-cutting a higher priority than safety, the Democrats argued. Second, the company made deadly assumptions about software known as MCAS, which was blamed for sending the planes into nosedives. Third, Boeing withheld critical information from the F.A.A. Fourth, the agency’s practice of delegating oversight authority to Boeing employees left it in the dark. And finally, the Democrats accused F.A.A. management of siding with Boeing and dismissing its own experts.

“These issues must be addressed by both Boeing and the F.A.A. in order to correct poor certification practices that have emerged, reassess key assumptions that affect safety and enhance transparency to enable more effective oversight,” the committee said.

Those crashes were caused in part by the MCAS system aboard the Max. Because the engines on the Max are larger and placed higher than on its predecessor, they could cause the jet’s nose to push upward in some circumstances. MCAS was designed to push the nose back down. In both crashes, the software was activated by faulty sensors, sending the planes toward the ground as the pilots struggled to pull them back up.

The deaths could have been avoided, however, if not for a series of safety lapses at Boeing and the F.A.A., the Democrats argued.

Internal communications show that Boeing dismissed or failed to adequately address concerns raised by employees relating to MCAS and its reliance on a single external sensor, the committee found. It also accused Boeing of intentionally misleading F.A.A. representatives,

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