A US House of Representatives committee apportioned blame to both Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration for two crashes of the 737 Max that killed 346 people, in a blistering report summarising its investigation into the jet’s manufacture and certification by American regulators.
Peter DeFazio, the Democratic congressman who chairs the House committee on transportation and infrastructure, said the fatalities were “tragic and avoidable”. The committee launched an investigation almost a year ago after two crashes in five months led to the worldwide grounding of the aircraft.
The report excoriated both the Chicago aerospace manufacturer and its regulator, the FAA, calling the government body’s review of the Max “grossly insufficient”.
“Boeing’s design and development of the 737 Max was marred by technical design failures, lack of transparency with both regulators and customers, and efforts to obfuscate information about the operation of the aircraft,” according to the report.
“The committee’s investigation has also found . . . the FAA failed in its duty to identify key safety problems and to ensure that they were adequately addressed during the certification process. The combination of these problems doomed the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines flights.”
The report examines five areas: production pressure on Boeing employees; the manufacturer’s “faulty” assumptions regarding flight control software; information that the company withheld from customers, regulators and pilots; “inherent conflicts of interest” between Boeing and its regulator; and examples of instances in which FAA managers “overruled the determination of the FAA’s own technical experts at the behest of Boeing”.
Boeing said in a statement it had “co-operated extensively” with the investigation and would review the preliminary report.
The FAA said it welcomed the scrutiny and that “the lessons learned from the investigations . . . will be a springboard to an even greater level of safety”.
The report’s release comes days before the first anniversary on March 10 of the second crash. Longtime consumer advocate Ralph Nader, whose grandniece was aboard Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, sent a letter to Roger Wicker, the Republican senator from Mississippi who chairs the Senate commerce, science and transportation committee, three days ago saying that the Senate panel’s lumbering investigation was being lapped by the House.
Mr DeFazio said his committee would continue to investigate and planned to introduce legislation to address “failures in the certification process”.
Boeing has defended the development of the Max, saying the company complied with FAA requirements, the report said. Yet “developing a transport category commercial aircraft that is compliant with FAA regulations but fundamentally flawed and unsafe highlights an aviation oversight system in desperate need of repair”, it said.