The Federal Aviation Administration has raised a number of questions after it allowed Boeing to check off safety qualifications for its own planes, and has come under intense scrutiny for its decision making.
The agency, which has been without leadership for over a year, was one of the last ones to ground Boeing 737 Max 8 planes after two crashes involving that model of plane occurred within a matter of months.
Following the latest crash in which all people on board died, many countries quickly made the decision to ground these planes as a precaution, but the United States, along with Canada, was among the last to do so.
“We’re a data-driven organization. You have to establish at least more than a gut feeling that two crashes are related before you ground an entire fleet,” said FAA’s acting administrator Daniel Elwell when asked why the U.S. waited so long to restrict the Max 8 aircraft.
CNN writes that the FAA only decided to ground the Boeing 737 Max planes after reviewing tracking data from the Ethiopian flight that crashed on Sunday. Elwell said that this information along with information found at the site of the crash was the reason the agency grounded these aircraft.
Canadian Transport Minister Marc Garneau also said the data analyzed on Wednesday was the reason they decided to ground the planes, while the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority said its Tuesday decision was a “precautionary measure” and noted they lacked “sufficient information from the flight data recorder.”
President Donald Trump told reporters on Thursday that he hoped the grounding order would only be a temporary safety measure.
Lawmakers noted that FAA and Boeing would be subject to congressional oversight. Representative Sam Graves, the ranking member on the House Transportation Committee, said “The House and the Senate will take a look at this” and expressed hope the restriction could be lifted and “we can get the flying public back on track as soon as possible.”
The chairmen of the House Transportation Committee and the Subcommittee on Aviation stressed they plan to conduct “rigorous oversight to get to the bottom of the FAA’s decision-making process.”
The agency has also come under scrutiny for its 2005 initiative which allows aircraft manufacturers to select their own employees to perform inspections and approve the airworthiness of planes as a result of its lack of “resources to do all the certification activities necessary to keep up with an expanding aviation industry.”