“Culture of concealment” and “repeated and serious failures” led to 737 MAX crashes

©Boeing 737 MAX

US congressional investigators have released a 239-page report on the 737-MAX crashes where it identifies both Boeing Co (Boeing) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for “repeated and serious failures”, together with a culture of “concealment” instigated by Boeing to withhold important information from the FAA.

The report identified Boeing’s sense of urgency to launch the 737MAX to compete with the Airbus A320. “Our report lays out disturbing revelations about how Boeing – under pressure to compete with Airbus and deliver profits for Wall Street – escaped scrutiny from the FAA, withheld critical information from pilots and ultimately put planes into service that killed 346 innocent people,” said Chairman Representative Peter DeFazio, an Oregon Democrat. “What’s particularly infuriating is how Boeing and FAA both gambled with public safety in the critical time period between the two crashes.”

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

The FAA has now demanded several new safeguards to MCAS, including requiring it to receive data from two sensors, before allowing 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 has been accused of removing MCAS from documentation referring to it as an upgrade to an existing system on other 737 models. The report said the FAA “failed to ensure the safety of the travelling public”.

Lawmakers have proposed numerous reforms to restructure how the FAA oversees airplane certification. A Senate committee will take up a reform Bill on Wednesday. “This is a tragedy that never should have happened,” House Transportation Committee chairman Peter DeFazio told reporters. “We’re going to take steps in our legislation to see that it never happens again as we reform the system.”

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