A lengthy US government report released on Friday said Boeing officials “improperly trained” test pilots during the rehabilitation effort after two deadly 737 Max planes crashed.
The report from the Senate Trade Commission said testing a major safety system known as MCAS is linked to two fatal accidents that are inconsistent with appropriate protocol.
The panel concluded that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Boeing officials “had reached a predetermined conclusion to reaffirm the long-standing human factor assumption regarding pilot reaction time …. it appears, in this case, that the FAA and Boeing were trying to cover Important information that may have contributed to the 737 MAX tragedies. “
All MAX aircraft have been grounded worldwide after crashing in Indonesia and Ethiopia killing a total of 346 people in October 2018 and March 2019, respectively. Last month, the Federal Aviation Administration approved the return of the 737 MAX to service, and flights were resumed in Brazil. The first US 737 Max commercial flight with two passenger pushes is scheduled for December 29.
According to a whistleblower who was a safety inspector with the Federal Aviation Administration, Boeing representatives watched and provided tips to help pilots in their flight simulator test respond to an airplane nosebleed in a few seconds. The report said that the response of three flight crews was still slower than Boeing had expected. Each time, the investigators said, the plane would have been thrown in its nose, although recovery was possible.
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In the two Max crashes, the failure of the MCAS system repeatedly pushed the nose down, causing the planes to fall into a fatal dive.
The Federal Aviation Administration responded that an FAA pilot discovered a separate computer problem in the plane, a defect that Boeing took additional months to fix.
Investigators also said that the FAA division manager was invited first, then disqualified from reviewing Max incidents even though his position usually invites him to participate in the review. The official said he believed he was excluded to protect the Federal Aviation Administration from criticism.
Several reports found that Boeing failed to adequately consider how pilots responded to cockpit emergencies in its development of the 737 MAX.
Boeing said on Friday it took “the panel’s findings very seriously and will continue to review the entire report.” On Friday, the Federal Aviation Administration said it was “carefully reviewing the document, which the commission acknowledged contained a number of baseless allegations.”
The agency added that it was “confident that the safety issues played a role in the tragedy [737 Max] Accidents involving Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 were handled through required design changes and independently approved by the Federal Aviation Administration and its partners.
Gaps in aviation safety oversight
Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Roger Walker said the report “details a number of important examples of loopholes in aviation safety oversight and failed leadership at the Federal Aviation Administration.”
The committee also said that “several independent informants contacted the committee to claim that the senior management of the Federal Aviation Administration was complicit in determining the level of training certification for the 737 MAX prior to any evaluation.”
Boeing resisted a request to train pilots on a simulator prior to operating the 737 Max but reversed course in January.
The report also indicated that Southwest Airlines managed to operate more than 150,000 flights carrying 17.2 million aircraft passengers without confirming that the required maintenance has been completed.
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The Senate report said that flights to the southwest “put millions of passengers at potential risk”. Southwest did not immediately comment. Southwest said on Friday that it was aware of the report and added, “We do not tolerate any relaxation of standards governing final safety across our operations.”
Boeing still faces an ongoing criminal investigation into Max. The commission said its review was “restricted due to the ongoing criminal investigation.”
Last month, the Senate committee unanimously passed a bill to reform how the Federal Aviation Administration would approve new aircraft and grant new protections for whistleblowers, among other reforms, while the US House of Representatives unanimously passed a similar bill.
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