Report from task force faults Boeing, FAA over 737 Max certification process

Report from task force faults Boeing, FAA over 737 Max certification process
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A government task force has reportedly found that Boeing did not sufficiently inform regulators about aspects of a new automated system that contributed to two recent crashes of its 737 Max.

Regulators also lacked the capability to analyze much of the information that Boeing did share, according to a report by the multiagency task force enlisted by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to look into the Max's certification process. 


The task force looked into the certification process, including the automated system, MCAS, that contributed to deadly crashes late last year as well as earlier this year. 

The report found that the lack of information and discussions about MCAS made it difficult for the FAA to determine its impacts.

"The FAA had inadequate awareness of the MCAS function which, coupled with limited involvement, resulted in an inability of the FAA to provide an independent assessment of the adequacy of the Boeing proposed certification activities associated with MCAS," the report said.

"The FAA was not completely unaware of MCAS; however, because the information and discussions about MCAS were so fragmented and were delivered to disconnected groups within the process,  it was difficult to recognize the impacts and implications of this system," it added later.

The task force determined that if FAA staffers had more information on the details of how MCAS functioned, the system may have received additional scrutiny.

Boeing did not properly tell the agency that MCAS's design was altered while the plane was in development, the report found. It said that information given about the design was "not updated during the certification program to reflect the changes to this function within the flight control system."

It also said that design assumptions were "not adequately reviewed, updated, or validated."

The report also said that because Boeing took out mentions of MCAS from a draft of the pilot’s manual, the FAA was "not fully aware of the MCAS function and was not in a position to adequately assess training needs."

The New York Times previously reported on a draft report of the findings.

FAA Administrator Steve Dickson told the newspaper in a statement that he would "review every recommendation and take appropriate action.” 

“We welcome this scrutiny and are confident that our openness to these efforts will further bolster aviation safety worldwide,” he said. "The accidents in Indonesia and Ethiopia are a somber reminder that the FAA and our international regulatory partners must strive to constantly strengthen aviation safety.

A Boeing spokesperson told The Hill in a statement that the company was reviewing the report's recommendations.

"Safety is a core value for everyone at Boeing and the safety of the flying public, our customers, and the crews aboard our airplanes is always our top priority," the spokesperson said. "Boeing is committed to working with the FAA in reviewing the recommendations and helping to continuously improve the process and approach used to validate and certify airplanes going forward."

A total of 346 people died in a pair of Boeing 737 Max crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia. That prompted several countries, including the U.S., to ground the planes and also spurred the FAA investigation. 

The report released Friday was based on a review conducted by representatives from the FAA, NASA and aviation authorities from  Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Europe, Indonesia, Japan, Singapore, and the United Arab Emirates.  

Updated at 1:42 p.m.