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FAA Probing Pressure on 737 MAX Inspectors

July 10, 2020
The Federal Aviation Administration is studying allegations that Boeing employees were pressured to approve design changes to the 737 series in order to gain the agency's authorization.

Boeing Co. is the subject of a Federal Aviation Administration seeking to determine whether Boeing employees were pressured to approve design changes to the 737 series during the development of the 737 MAX aircraft. The investigation is referenced in the report delivered June 30 by the Dept. of Transportation Inspector General, which concluded Boeing failed to reveal the consequences of its Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) flight-control software changes; and that FAA failed to address the problem until after a second fatal crash of the 737 MAX in March 2019.

A total of 346 passengers and crew members were killed in the two crashes, in October 2018 and March 2019.

Reportedly, the FAA is not focused on the 737 MAX certification process, but on its own program called Organization Designation Authorization, which authorizes aircraft builders to act in place of FAA to confirm the reliability of design aircraft changes.

The IG report cited Boeing internal records of the Organization Designation Authorization program showing that numerous employees involved as designees were concerned about pressure from the company.

After the first 737 MAX crash in October 2018, the agency launched a "compliance action" to investigate complaints by five designated Boeing employees, alleging that during the development of 737 MAX Boeing officials pressured them to approve critical changes, in order to keep the new aircraft development on track.

Following the first crash, Boeing tried to resolve the problems by implementing a corrective action plan, meaning it promised to improve its processes and prevent future violations. The second crash in March 2019 was followed by the program idling.

The IG report concludes that Boeing failed to report to FAA " the scope and potential safety impacts" of changes it introduced to the 737 MAX MCAS, the flight-control program that has been identified as the cause of the two crashes.

A new MCAS has been developed and was evaluated in test flights conducted by Boeing and FAA pilots in late June. Boeing hopes to have the 737 MAX recertified for commercial service later this year.

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