A United States Congressional report blames the crashes of two Boeing 737 MAX airplanes on the manufacturer’s design and the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) approval process.
The 737 MAX was grounded in March 2019 several days after an Ethiopian Airlines flight crashed, killing 157 people. Five months earlier, a Lion Air 737 MAX crashed in Indonesia. All 189 passengers and crew were killed.
The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee wrote in the report that the crashes “were not the result of a singular failure, technical mistake, or mismanaged event.” It said, “Boeing failed in its design and development of the MAX, and the FAA failed in its oversight of Boeing and its certification of the aircraft.”
Pete DeFazio is the Transportation Committee Chairman. He said, “This is a tragedy that never should have happened.” DeFazio told reporters, “We’re going to take steps in our legislation to see that it never happens again as we reform the system.”
Boeing said in a statement that it “learned many hard lessons as a company from the accidents ... and from the mistakes we have made.” It said it had cooperated fully with the House committee and that it has since followed experts’ advice on engineering and testing of the plane.
The FAA said it would work with the lawmakers to put in place improvements identified in the report.
The House released the report Wednesday after an 18-month investigation into the crashes. It identified five problems with the design and approval process for the 737 MAX.
First, it said Boeing cut costs during production in order to compete with a new plane from Airbus.
Second, it said Boeing made false assumptions about the airplane’s software, designed to prevent aerodynamic stalls. In the two crashes, the software repeatedly forced the nose of the airplane down as pilots struggled to keep the planes in the air. Many pilots were not informed about the software. Yet, the report said Boeing expected that pilots would be able to deal with the safety issues.
Third, the committee found that Boeing hid software information from the FAA, the airlines and 737 MAX pilots to avoid any requirements for additional pilot training. Investigators found that under a 2011 contract with Southwest Airlines, Boeing would have had to cut its airplane sale price by $1 million if more pilot training were required.
“That drove a whole lot of really bad decisions internally at Boeing, and also the FAA did not pick up on these things,” DeFazio said.
Fourth, the report found that Boeing employees failed to warn the FAA of possible safety issues.
And, finally, lawmakers reported that Boeing’s influence over the FAA approval process led the agency to make poor decisions. It said FAA management overruled its own technical and safety experts in support of Boeing.
DeFazio said, “Our report gives Congress a roadmap on the steps we must take to reinforce aviation safety and regulatory transparency, increase Federal oversight, and improve corporate accountability to help ensure the story of the Boeing 737 MAX is never, ever repeated.”
The United States House of Representatives is controlled by the Democratic Party. DeFazio said the transportation committee is working with the Republican-controlled Senate on new legislation.
At the same time, Boeing is testing new flight control software for the MAX, hoping to get approval to fly the plane again later this year or early 2021.
I'm Caty Weaver.
Hai Do wrote this story for Learning English with additional reporting from the Associated Press and Reuters. Caty Weaver was the editor.
Words in This Story
mismanage - v. to control or manage badly
oversight - n. the act or job of directing work that is being done
certification - n. official approval
assumption - n. something that is believed to be true but that is not known to be true
aerodynamic - adj. regarding how objects move through the air
stall - n. sudden stop
internally - adv. coming from the inside