Watchdog Report Finds Boeing Hid Details of 737 Max Changes

A Boeing 737 Max jet prepares to land following a test flight in Seattle on Monday. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

(CN) — A federal watchdog report released Wednesday found that Boeing failed to provide regulators with documents about changes it made in a key system blamed for the deadly crashes of two 737 Max jets last year.

The Department of Transportation’s Inspector General released a report on the Chicago-based aerospace company detailing the timeline leading up to the certification of the Boeing 737 Max 8 and actions taken after the first of two crashes.

According to the report, engineers responsible for certifying the aircraft were not informed about changes made to Boeing’s flight-control system even though government personnel who were involved in flight testing were filled in on the changes.

Following the deadly Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crash in March 2019 – which was the second in less than five months involving the 737 Max after Lion Air Flight 610 crashed off the coast of Indonesia in October 2018 – members of Congress and Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao had pushed the inspector general to investigate the events leading up to the aircraft’s certification by the Federal Aviation Administration.

The watchdog report outlines the plane’s timeline from development in 2012 until 2019, when it was officially grounded in response to the failures.

It found that FAA employers involved in flight tests knew about changes to the control system but “certification engineers and personnel responsible for approving the level of airline pilot training told us they were unaware of the revision to MCAS,” the name for the flight-control system.

Boeing spokesman Bernard Choi said in a statement that the company is making sure that improvements to the plane “are comprehensive and thoroughly tested.” He said that when the 737 Max returns, “it will be one of the most thoroughly scrutinized aircraft in history, and we have full confidence in its safety.”

“We recognize we have a lot of work to do,” Boeing President and CEO David Calhoun said in a recent statement to investors on fourth-quarter losses in 2019. “We are focused on returning the 737 Max to service safely and restoring the long-standing trust that the Boeing brand represents with the flying public.”

Calhoun added, “We are committed to transparency and excellence in everything we do. Safety will underwrite every decision, every action and every step we take as we move forward.”

Peter DeFazio, an Oregon Democrat who chairs the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, commended the inspector general’s office for taking on the examination Wednesday.

 “The more scrutiny we put on Boeing and the FAA, and the more we dig into why and how the system failed so horribly and led to the deaths of 346 innocent people, the better chance we have of fixing the system to ensure no family has to endure this nightmare again,” DeFazio said in a statement. “This IG report reinforces some of the findings of our committee’s ongoing investigation, which has revealed a number of disturbing patterns, including Boeing’s efforts to conceal critical information from regulators in its rush to get the Max to market.”

Rick Larsen, a Democrat from Washington state and chair of the House Aviation subcommittee, said he is working with DeFazio to introduce legislation to address issues in the FAA’s certification process that were identified in the report.

“As this work continues, the victims of the 737 Max crashes and their families, as well as the safety of the traveling public will remain at the forefront,” Larsen said.

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