Numerous design, management, and regulatory failures during the development of the 737 Max preceded the “preventable death” of 346 people in two crashes of the popular Boeing jet, according to a condemning congressional report released Wednesday.
The 238-page House Transport and Infrastructure Committee reported a Boeing prioritizing profits over safety and detailed “disturbing cultural issues” in employee surveys that showed some perceived “unnecessary pressure” as the manufacturer drove to exit the aircraft to compete with the competing Airbus. . The report said concerns about the aircraft were not addressed sufficiently to spur design changes.
Some lawmakers introduced legislation this year aimed at increasing the Federal Aviation Administration̵
The report, which has been in the works for about 18 months, comes as regulators are in the final stretch of work to reaffirm the planes. The 737 Max has been grounded worldwide since March 2019 following the second of the plane’s two fatal crashes.
“They were the terrible culmination of a series of flawed technical assumptions by Boeing’s engineers, a lack of transparency on the part of Boeing’s management and grossly inadequate supervision by the FAA – the detrimental result of regulating the FAA’s responsibility for its robust oversight Boeing and ensure the safety of the flying public, ”the report said. Lawmakers and staff received 600,000 pages of records from Boeing, the FAA, airlines and others, for its investigation, conducted interviews with two dozen employees and regulators, and considered comments from whistleblowers who reached out to the committee, they said.
Lion Air Flight 610 from Jakarta, Indonesia, on October 29, 2018, and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on March 10, 2019, both crashed shortly after takeoff, killing everyone on board. At the center of the crashes was an automated system known as MCAS, against which pilots for both aircraft battled. It was activated after receiving inaccurate sensor data.
Pilots were not informed of the MCAS until after the first crash, and mentions of it were removed from their manuals. Last year, the National Transportation Safety Board found Boeing overestimated the pilot’s ability to handle a stream of alarms during malfunctions.
Boeing has made changes to the MCAS system that make it less powerful, give pilots more control and give it more data before it is activated. These are, among other things, changes that regulators have undergone as part of the process of recertifying the aircraft as safe for the traveling public.
“We have learned many hard lessons as a company from the accidents involving the Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Flight 302 and from the mistakes we have made,” Boeing said in a written statement. “As this report acknowledges, we have made fundamental changes in our business as a result and continue to look for ways to improve. Change is always hard and requires daily commitment, but we as a business are dedicated to doing the work.”
House report, led by rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., Chairman of the Committee, and Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Wash., Chair of the aviation subcommittee, said its investigation “leaves the question of Boeing’s willingness to admit to and learn from the company’s mistakes.”
Some of the family members of the crash victims say Boeing has not done enough.
“I think the project as a whole needs to be scrapped,” Yalena Lopez-Lewis, whose husband Antoine was killed on the Ethiopian Airlines plane, said in an interview. “I think this was a hasty project, and … now they’re in a hurry to recertify. You can not put a dollar value on any passenger’s life.”
Michael Stumo, whose daughter Samya Stumo was killed in the Ethiopian Airlines crash, said Boeing and regulators did not do enough after the first crash five months earlier.
“Before Lion Air, it was a mistake. After Lion Air, it was unforgivable,” he said in an interview.
The crashes pushed Boeing into its biggest crisis ever as its best-selling aircraft could not be delivered to customers and costs are fitted. The various mistakes cost Boeing’s former CEO Dennis Muilenburg his job and prompted the company to undergo an internal restructuring to improve its approach to security. Now the coronavirus pandemic, which has increased air travel demand worldwide combined with the extensive grounding, is giving Boeing a new problem: the cancellation of aircraft is piling up.
The manufacturer’s problems do not end with 737 Max. It recently discovered deficiencies on some 787 Dreamliners, leading to inspections that have slowed deliveries of the wide-body aircraft.