Sep 16, 2020 - Economy

House report says errors at Boeing and FAA led to 737 MAX crashes

A Boeing jet.

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The House Transportation Committee on Wednesday released a scathing report, highlighting "repeated and serious failures" by Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration that preceded two deadly 737 MAX jet crashes in 2018 and 2019.

The big picture: The 239-page report says the crashes, which killed 346 people, were the result of a "horrific culmination" of poor technical assumptions by Boeing’s engineers, a lack of transparency by Boeing’s management and insufficient oversight by the FAA.

The report's findings:

FAA management overruled the conclusions of their own technical experts "at the behest of Boeing."

  • This was consistent with a recent survey in which FAA employees said they believed management was more concerned with helping the aviation industry achieve its goals.
  • The FAA's oversight structure for Boeing created "inherent conflicts of interest that have jeopardized the safety of the flying public," pointing to instances in which Boeing employees who work on behalf of the FAA didn't alert the agency about potential certification and safety issues.

Production pressures at Boeing to compete with its European counterpart Airbus led to "extensive efforts to cut costs, maintain the 737 MAX program schedule, and avoid slowing the 737 MAX production line."

  • Boeing made "faulty assumptions" about the plane's MCAS software, designed to push the nose of the plane down in certain conditions given the plane's structural changes from a traditional 737. Many pilots worldwide weren't aware of the system.
  • Boeing also "withheld crucial information from the FAA, its customers, and 737 MAX pilots," including about the MCAS software.

The bottom line: "The fact that a compliant airplane suffered from two deadly crashes in less than five months is clear evidence that the current regulatory system is fundamentally flawed and needs to be repaired," the report concluded.

Read the report.

Go deeper: Everything you need to know about the Boeing 737 MAX crashes

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