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Democrats push FAA for action against certain Boeing 737 Max employees

Dominic Gates, The Seattle Times on

Published in Political News

While Boeing is eager to put behind it the consequences of the two fatal 737 Max crashes, Democrats on the U.S. House Transportation Committee chaired by Rep. Peter DeFazio are pushing for more individual accountability for what went wrong at the company.

On Monday, DeFazio, D-Ore., and Rick Larsen, D-Wash., chair of the Aviation Subcommittee, asked Federal Aviation Administration chief Steve Dickson what actions the FAA has taken against individuals at Boeing responsible for two specific instances of apparent deception of customers and regulators during development of the Max.

"We are deeply troubled by the absence of rigorous accountability for Boeing's past transgressions related to the 737 Max and the FAA's failure to hold those who violated the public's trust accountable," the two wrote in a letter to Dickson.

The two cited instances are separate from those documented by the Department of Justice in its recent criminal indictment of former 737 Max chief technical pilot Mark Forkner.

The letter asks specifically for the FAA to go after others at Boeing who have not been publicly identified. The company declined to comment Monday.

Nonfunctioning crew alert let slide

 

The first issue cited relates to a Max flight deck alert designed to tell the pilots that the readings from the jet's two angle of attack sensors disagreed. Boeing found out in 2017 that this alert was not functioning on the vast majority of Maxes. But it judged that the malfunction wasn't a safety issue and decided not to fix it until a planned upgrade in 2020.

Boeing did not inform the FAA or its airline customers of the problem until after the first crash in late 2018.

DeFazio's letter quotes former FAA acting Administrator Dan Elwell in 2019 stating that because this crew alert was approved as part of the Max's FAA-certified design, "it was required to be installed and functional on all 737 Max airplanes."

The letter points out that a Boeing engineer working as an authorized representative of the FAA "concurred with Boeing's decision to delay the fix." And "multiple individuals across the company were aware of this issue."

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