Democratic chairman presses Transportation secretary over transparency in Boeing 737 Max probe

Democratic chairman presses Transportation secretary over transparency in Boeing 737 Max probe
© Greg Nash

Rep. Peter DeFazioPeter Anthony DeFazioDemocrats to probe Trump's replacement of top Transportation Dept. watchdog Donald Trump is proposing attacks on Social Security and seniors; here is what we should do instead House committee investigating Carnival cruise line's response to coronavirus MORE (D-Ore.) sent a letter to Transportation Secretary Elaine ChaoElaine Lan ChaoTrump campaign launches Asian Pacific Americans coalition Bottom line Democrats to probe Trump's replacement of top Transportation Dept. watchdog MORE on Friday chastising the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for what he said was a lack of transparency over requests for information regarding Boeing’s 737 Max jet.

The letter from DeFazio, the chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, accused the FAA of slow walking the release of messages and documents as part of the agency's investigation into the design, testing and certification of the Boeing 737 Max, which has come under intense scrutiny after two crashes killed 346 people.

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DeFazio's letter came the same day that 2016 messages surfaced showing two Boeing employees had warned that a new automated system was making the plane hard to control during flight simulations.

“I am deeply troubled by the emails and instant messages between two Boeing employees related to the 737 MAX airplane that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) delivered to our Committee today. These messages indicate that Boeing withheld damning information from the FAA, which is highly disturbing,” DeFazio wrote to Chao.

He went on to request the Transportation Department immediately send unredacted email exchanges between employees to his committee, saying it is “unacceptable” that his panel is just now finding out about the messages.

The messages between the employees raised eyebrows because of the blunt assessment of their concerns over the jet’s systems. 

“It’s running rampant in the sim,” a pilot reportedly wrote in a message to a colleague, referencing the automated system. The pilot added that while he wasn't great at flying, the system was "egregious."

The Boeing 737 Max has been grounded since March, and the FAA has maintained that there is no “prescribed timeline" for returning it to passenger service.

“As I have said repeatedly throughout the course of my Committee’s investigation, it is imperative that we get answers as to what went wrong, resulting in the two crashes and the deaths of 346 people. On behalf of the victims and their loved ones, as well as the entire flying public, safety must always be the priority. I expect your full cooperation going forward,” DeFazio wrote.