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Final report: Boeing, FAA made 'serious' flaws, 'missteps' with 737 Max

By
Don Jacobson
Relatives hold photographs of loved ones killed in crashes involving the Boeing 737 Max, during a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on October 29, 2019. File Photo by Pete Marovich/UPI
Relatives hold photographs of loved ones killed in crashes involving the Boeing 737 Max, during a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on October 29, 2019. File Photo by Pete Marovich/UPI | License Photo

Sept. 16 (UPI) -- Congressional investigators said in a final report Wednesday that Boeing and U.S. aviation regulators failed in their duty to ensure travelers' safety when they designed and certified the 737 Max airliner, which crashed twice within months and has been grounded worldwide for nearly two years.

The 238-page report by the House transportation committee concludes that Boeing prioritized profits over safety in rushing to complete the design of the plane -- and the Federal Aviation Administration, the industry's chief civil regulator, was guilty of "grossly insufficient oversight" in giving final approval for the model.

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The failures "played instrumental and causative roles" in two deadly crashes of the 737 Max in Ethiopia and Indonesia in late 2018 and early 2019, which killed 346 passengers and crew and led regulators worldwide to revoke the model's certificate of airworthiness.

The panel report cited what it called "serious flaws" and "missteps in the design, development and certification" of the airliner, which entered service in 2017.

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"The Max crashes were not the result of a singular failure, technical mistake or mismanaged event," the report states. "They were the horrific culmination of a series of faulty technical assumptions by Boeing's engineers, a lack of transparency on the part of Boeing's management and grossly insufficient oversight by the FAA -- the pernicious result of regulatory capture on the part of the FAA with respect to its responsibilities to perform robust oversight of Boeing and to ensure the safety of the flying public."

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Other investigations have said the plane's automated flight control system, the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, was a chief cause of both crashes. On both occasions, the system was adversely activated after receiving inaccurate sensor data and put the planes into a nose-down position that the pilots weren't able to recover from.

Wednesday's report, the result of an 18-month investigation led by committee Chairman Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., and Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Wash., said some Boeing engineers raised concerns about the MCAS design but they were overruled by management as the company raced to introduce the 737 Max to compete with the new A320 Neo by French rival Airbus.

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The report said the FAA's judgment in approving the model was compromised by "inherent conflicts of interest," including allowing workers at Boeing to act as de facto representatives of the regulatory agency in determining whether the systems and designs complied with federal rules.

"Our report lays out disturbing revelations about how Boeing -- under pressure to compete with Airbus and deliver profits for Wall Street -- escaped scrutiny from the FAA, withheld critical information from pilots and ultimately put planes into service that killed 346 innocent people," DeFazio wrote.

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"What's particularly infuriating is how Boeing and FAA both gambled with public safety in the critical time period between the two crashes."

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"We have learned many hard lessons as a company from the accidents ... and from the mistakes we have made," Boeing said in a statement Wednesday, in a response to the report.

"We have made fundamental changes to our company as a result and continue to look for ways to improve. Change is always hard and requires daily commitment, but we as a company are dedicated to doing the work.

"We have been hard at work strengthening our safety culture and rebuilding trust with our customers, regulators and the flying public."

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