Mar 19, 2019

Transportation secretary asks for internal probe of Boeing certification

Boeing 737 MAX 8 passenger planes at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport on March 13. Photo: Ralph Freso/Getty Images

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao requested that the department's inspector general investigate the certification process the department followed that allowed the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft into the skies. Two Boeing 737 MAXs have crashed since October, leading to a worldwide grounding of the popular jetliner.

Why it matters: The investigation adds to the probes that Boeing is facing over the crash of a Lion Air 737 MAX 8 in October and the loss of an Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX 8 on March 10. In the wake of the latter crash, the FAA, which is housed within the Transportation Department, ordered all 737 MAX aircraft grounded, after nearly every affected major country in the world had already done the same.

Details: In her letter to the inspector general, Chao wrote that she is seeking an "audit to compile an objective and detailed factual history of the activities that resulted in the certification of the Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft." In a Tweet Tuesday afternoon, Boeing said it will "fully cooperate in the Department of Transportation's audit announced by Secretary Chao."

Context: The main focus of the investigations into both crashes concern a software system known as MCAS that intervenes when it senses that a rare flight condition, known as a high speed stall, is taking place. In both crashes, it appears that the MCAS system repeatedly activated, forcing the plane's nose down and leading to a fatal crash.

A Seattle Times investigation, as well as other reporting, shows that the FAA may have been too deferential to Boeing in certifying that the MCAS system in particular, and the aircraft type in general, was safe to fly.

The big picture: Other investigations underway include two crash probes, one in Indonesia and another in Ethiopia, a reported grand jury criminal investigation into the aircraft's certification, and a mounting congressional probe.

Go deeper: What we've learned from the 737 MAX crashes

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UFC wants to host fight on tribal land to avoid coronavirus restrictions

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

In an attempt to skirt federal and state guidelines during the coronavirus pandemic, the UFC plans to hold its April 18 pay-per-view event on tribal land in California, per multiple reports.

The state of play: Even as the rest of the sports world hits pause, UFC president Dana White has remained adamant that fights must go on, and appears to have settled for a shutdown casino in a state with the fourth-most confirmed cases of coronavirus.

Ivanka Trump plans focus on coronavirus recovery for small businesses

Ivanka Trump speaks at yesterday's White House videoconference with bank and credit card executives. Photo: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Ivanka Trump personally lobbied top bank executives to line up the $1.5 billion in commitments to small business that were announced yesterday at a videoconference among the bank executives and President Trump — stoking competitive juices among the execs to drive up their commitments.

The state of play: Ivanka, who has had workforce development in her portfolio going back to 2017, plans an increasing emphasis on small businesses in the weeks ahead as they navigate the rescue bill’s Payroll Protection Program, sources tell me.

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Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Public transit systems across the country are experiencing a painful trifecta: Ridership has collapsed, funding streams are squeezed, and mass transit won't bounce back from the pandemic nearly as fast as other modes of transportation.

Why it matters: Transit agencies could see an annual shortfall of as much as $38 billion due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to TransitCenter. At the same time, they're more important than ever, with more than 36% of essential workers relying on public transportation to get to work.

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