A congressional report on Boeing blames two fatal crashes on the company’s “culture of concealment” as well as “grossly insufficient” federal oversight.
The investigation focused on the Federal Aviation Administration’s certification of the MAX aircraft and the delegation of self-approval authority to Boeing.
The 13-page report reveals shocking engineering and regulatory lapses regarding the design and certification of the MAX – including a yearslong commitment by Boeing to avoid expensive simulator training and to withhold information from the FAA.
Lawmakers’ investigation was prompted by fatal crashes in October 2018 and March 2019. Both crashes were caused by the MAX aircraft’s Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS).
MCAS – which was omitted from crew training – was deemed an “unacceptable safety risk” by authorities before the second crash occurred.
During the plane’s development, Boeing officials erased references to the new flight control system from manuals and referred to the system by another name to keep FAA officials from asking questions. Boeing continued to downplay the importance of MCAS even after the first crash occurred and asked regulators to ease training requirements for MAX jets.
FAA officials allowed MAX planes to keep flying despite prior certification problems. In some cases, regulators delegated oversight responsibilities to Boeing employees, who were authorized to act on the government’s behalf.
MAX aircraft were grounded worldwide after the second crash, disrupting 8,600 weekly flights with 59 airlines.
In November 2019, the FAA revoked Boeing’s authority to issue airworthiness certificates for individual MAX aircraft. In December, Boeing fired its CEO and airlines throughout the world canceled orders for 183 MAX planes.
Boeing – America’s top exporter based on dollar amount – expects the ordeal to result in over $18 billion in losses.
Moving forward, MAX aircraft will remain grounded as Boeing continues to improves the plane’s software and develops training programs that will require approval from regulators.