Eighteen months of investigation, more than twenty hearings and 600,000 pages of documents examined: the final report of the US Congressional Transportation Committee on the Lion Air Boeing 737 MAX crashes in October 2018 and Ethiopian Airlines in March 2019, was reported on Wednesday, September 17. It concludes with a series of engineering flaws, mismanagement on the part of Boeing and a lack of oversight on the part of the aviation regulator (FAA), with “Horrible outcome” fatal accidents.
In this 239-page document, the manufacturer is criticized “The disturbing repetition of poor technical evaluations and disturbing errors of judgment on the part of management”. The FAA is vilified there for its “Many gaps in terms of supervision and accountability”.
Written by Democrats on the House of Representatives Transport Committee, the report “Contains disturbing revelations about how Boeing – under pressure to compete with Airbus and make profits for Wall Street – escaped FAA scrutiny, withheld critical information from pilots, and eventually fielded planes that killed 346 innocent people ”, commented the chairman of this commission, Peter DeFazio, in a press release.
The report brings “To Congress a roadmap on the steps we need to take to strengthen aviation safety and regulatory transparency, increase federal oversight and improve corporate accountability to ensure that the history of the Boeing 737 MAX never repeats itself.”. The constructor “Seriously needs to change its approach to security”, concludes the report. But “The commission’s investigation failed to determine whether Boeing really wants to admit its mistakes and learn from them”.
“Culture of Concealment”
The group claims to have “Worked hard to strengthen [sa] culture of safety and rebuild trust with [ses] customers, regulators and the public ”. The report highlights five themes, starting with the strong financial pressure placed on Boeing and the 737 MAX program to go as quickly as possible in order to better compete with the Airbus A320 Neo. This pressure has pushed Boeing to cut expenses and maintain the production schedule at all costs.
The document also blames the assumptions made by Boeing on essential technologies of the aircraft, including the MCAS anti-stall software involved in the two accidents, as well as on the reactions of the pilots even when most of them were not. not aware of the existence of this software. “The culture of concealment” which prevails at the manufacturer and prevented it from sharing crucial information with the authorities, its customers and the pilots of the 737 MAX, is also singled out.
The report’s authors also highlight how the regulator oversees Boeing: to the extent that company employees perform certain tasks on behalf of the FAA, this creates, in their eyes, “Inherent conflicts of interest”. Finally, they deplore Boeing’s too important influence on the FAA, which, on several occasions, has pushed the officials of the authority to reject the conclusions of its own technicians at the request of the manufacturer.
The regulator said in a statement Wednesday that it has already started to transform and is ready to work with the commission to implement the recommended changes. “These initiatives aim to advance aviation safety by improving our organization, processes and culture”, underlines the FAA in this press release.