Boeing 737 Max crashes and calls for stronger FAA control

A Boeing 737 MAX 7 aircraft lands during an evaluation flight at Boeing Field in Seattle, Washington, on September 30, 2020.

Lindsey Wasson | Reuters

A government watchdog said the Federal Aviation Administration needed to improve its oversight of new aircraft in a report released Wednesday. This review was triggered by two fatal Boeing 737 Max crashes.

The chief transportation officer said “weaknesses” in the FAA’s certification processes were affecting the effectiveness of its oversight of the aircraft. The crashes of two almost new Max aircraft less than five months apart in 2018 and 2019 led to the jets being grounded worldwide and to reviews of development and certification errors.

The FAA lifted the ban on jetliners, Boeing’s best-selling aircraft, in November.

The Inspector General’s report cited problems understanding a flight control system – the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation Program (MCAS), which was involved in both crashes that resulted in a combined death of 346 people.

The FAA “did not fully understand the MCAS safety assessments of Boeing until after the first accident,” the report said.

The 59-page report included 14 recommendations on the FAA’s monitoring and ability to detect risk after determining that “the FAA’s current oversight structure and processes can effectively identify future high-risk safety concerns” from manufacturers who are running some certification-related tasks are assigned.

In a statement included in the report, the FAA said it agreed with the recommendations and was already taking some steps to “ensure a more holistic assessment of aircraft design changes”.

Boeing said it worked with the review.

“As part of our ongoing efforts, we have made significant improvements to our company, including organizational changes, improved compliance policies and training initiatives, and the creation of new mechanisms to further ensure transparent safety and quality reporting,” said a statement.

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