Lawmakers slammed the Federal Aviation Administration Wednesday over its handling of the Boeing 737 MAX after the now-grounded model had its first deadly crash last year.
They blasted the FAA for approving the airplane model even after other malfunctions were reported following the fatal Lion Air crash in Indonesia. The Boeing aircraft was grounded in March after a second deadly crash involving the MAX 737 model, shortly after take-off.
“We expect you to be the entity that stands up and says this aircraft is completely safe to fly,” said Senator Jack Reed at a hearing before a panel of the Senate Appropriations Committee. “That does not seem to be the case in this situation.”
Officials with the FAA defended their decision to delegate the certification review to Boeing, but acknowledged that they could make improvements.
“We have been fully knowledgeable in dealing with the development of that plane,” said Carl Burleson, acting deputy FAA administrator, about the agency’s inclusion of Boeing in the process. “I will say it doesn’t mean that it’s perfect.”
Crash investigators have identified a piece of flight-control software as the problem, which Boeing said it was working on. The software fix is yet to be submitted to the FAA for review. Pilots have noted that they learned about the system only after the Lion Air crash.
Following the first crash, Boeing issued a warning to pilots regarding the software, which the aircraft manufacturer said it was standing by.
“From a safety perspective, we felt strongly that what we did was adequate, and that was … based on the review of the data we have obtained from our operators and Canadian operators. We thought that was sufficient,” said Ali Bahrami, head of safety at FAA. “Now, knowing what we know today and maybe we will have to take a revisit of that based on these reviews.”
Boeing further said that after the first fatal crash, it took all “the appropriate actions and are fully consistent with the FAA’s analysis and established process,” as well as that the company agreed to the agency’s timeline for the software fix’s implementation.
During Wednesday’s hearing, Senator Joe Manchin said: “We have relied on the industry more than we should rely on the industry to do the job that we should do to make sure the American public is safe,” and added that for the Boeing model to get back in the air, every Boeing official should be flying that plane for one month to make sure that we have the confidence for a passenger to get back on that plane.”