Monday, 27 May, 2019

FAA defends Boeing Max safety approval

The 737 MAX 8 is currently grounded worldwide after the March crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 that killed all 157 people onboard. — Reuters pic Pilots confronted Boeing about 737 Max before second crash
Patty Aguilar | 18 May, 2019, 05:00

"I don't know that understanding this system would've changed the outcome on this", the official said, referring to the Lion Air crash.

The hearing before the House panel is expected to cover the FAA's review of a flight-control system on the Max that was not present on earlier versions of the 737.

Boeing plans to submit changes to the 737 Max software to the FAA, which will study the new software and carry out tests flights.

Acting FAA Administrator Daniel Elwell, in opening remarks, defended the agency's longstanding practice of designating Boeing and other companies with key roles in certification.

Meanwhile, the Senate Commerce Committee held a short hearing for President Donald Trump's choice to take over the FAA: Stephen Dickson, a former Delta Air Lines pilot and executive.

"The FAA has a credibility problem", declared the subcommittee chairman, Rick Larsen, D-Wash. Boeing says the alert will be activated as a standard feature once 737 MAX planes return to flight.

But the meeting shows that pilots were already anxious about the safety of the model following the October 2018 crash in Indonesia of a Lion Air 737 MAX 8 that left no survivors of the 189 people onboard. In total, 346 people died in the two crashes.

The FAA's acting chief criticized Boeing for not disclosing to the FAA or to airlines for more than a year that a 737 Max display supposed to show whether a sensor was malfunctioning wasn't working.

The audio, obtained by CBS News, captured American Airlines pilots demanding more information about the anti-stall system, known as MCAS, during a tense meeting with Boeing officials in November. Also, 12 of Boeing's 787 Dreamliners were also sold in the same month.

Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio, an Oregon Democrat, complained about the pace of receiving records.

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As many as 196 orders of the 737 models have been dropped from Boeing's order book in 2019 alone, and there have been 25 sales of single-aisle planes. "We've got to get to the bottom of this".

The FAA is hosting a meeting of foreign aviation regulators on May 23 in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and Elwell said part of the goal was to fix what he called a perception that there is a "crisis of confidence" in the agency's leadership.

"These guys didn't even know the damn system was on the airplane", the pilot continues, referring to the Lion Air crash: "Nor did anybody else". He said that "none of those reports were related to the MCAS" - the flight-control system cited as a cause in the two fatal crashes.

"I, at the beginning when I first heard of this, thought that the MCAS should have been more adequately explained in the ops manual and the flight manual, absolutely", Elwell said.

After a sensor on 737 Max jets in Indonesia and Ethiopia malfunctioned, MCAS continually attempted to make the aircraft dive. Boeing did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The highest ranking Republican on the committee, Representative Sam Graves of Missouri, urged caution before blaming Boeing for the accidents. He promised a software update in six weeks.

Boeing representatives were not invited to Wednesday's hearing. United UAL said that it learned about the deactivated feature after the Ethiopian Airlines crash in March.

"The only thing that is going to stop this is the public", Milleron said in an interview.

Cruz, whose state hosts the headquarters of Southwest Airlines and American Airlines, has been particularly tough on the FAA regarding its handling of the safety certification of the 737 Max.

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