Some lawmakers want an independent review before FAA allows Boeing's troubled 737 MAX back in the sky – another sign of how far the agency's credibility has fallen after two fatalities in Indonesia and Ethiopia
With probes mounting, and as Congress is preparing to hold its first hearing Wednesday in how the plane was certified as safe to fly, among other things, House Tran sporting chairman of the dining room DeFazio (D-Ore.) took the unusual step of demanding that the aircraft remain grounded until a third party validates which solutions the agency requires. Boeing has run tests on a software solution, which the FAA hopes will sign quickly and says Tuesday that its "final submission" is expected at the end of the week.
Narrative continues below
The legislator's proposal is in effect a sharp accusation for an agency which until a few months ago was considered the gold standard of security worldwide.
"The traveler needs assurances that the FAA will only resume the flight to aircraft if and when the FAA, outside security and technical experts and pilots agree that the aircraft is safe to fly." DeFazio said Tuesday. He called for an "independent third-party review" to ensure that the Boeing software fix is comprehensive and that pilots have the training they need to fly the plane safely before the aircraft are allowed to operate.
He insisted that his proposal should not be interpreted as a "trust" vote in the FAA and that his call for revision is based on previous precedent. He cited a review made in connection with the 2013 founding of another Boeing aircraft, the 787 Dreamliner. However, this study was commissioned by the FAA and was not performed by a third party, and the Dreamliner fleet's recertification was not based on the results. A DeFazio assistant later said it is not a "rebuke" by the FAA.
DeFazio's calls came in the depths of the study of the process the FAA uses to fly flying as safe to fly – and especially the major role played by industrial players such as Boeing in the process of congressional mandates to delegate many inspections -, testing and certification tasks for the manufacturers. On Tuesday evening DeFazio sent with Rep. Rick Larsen (D-Wash.) A letter to the FAA, formally requesting the review, although it does not explicitly request that it be made as a condition for allowing the beams to return to the air.
"It is crucial that any technical changes proposed … are comprehensive and reliable," the letter reads. "To provide this level of security, we encourage you to engage an independent, third-party review, consisting of people with the technical skills and expertise, to objectively advise on any measures considered that require safety certification of new and new technologies. . "
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Who did not sign the letter, repeated DeFazio's suggestion and said that Boeing and its airline customers should support it. "The credibility of the current security monitoring system is so seriously challenged," he said. "The credibility is so much in the question that they would be happy to have some form of autonomy."
The FAA said it had not yet seen DeFazio's letter and therefore had no comments. But acting administrator Dan Elwell is expected to say at a Senate meeting on Wednesday that his agency "welcomes external review of our systems, processes and recommendations."
Senate Commerce Chairman Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), If Panel Will Hold Wednesday's hearing said he has not spoken to DeFazio about his call for a third party review, but still believes the FAA is the "gold standard" for aviation security. "It's good to ask the questions, but I still think the FAA is well run and reliable," Wicker said. "But we ask the questions and we will see. New facts can come."
Blumenthal said he is planning to push the FAA on how he delegates his authority to certify the aircraft to Boeing "may have contributed to the absolutely disastrous software and training that was so deficient in Boeing 737 MAX 8" and suggested that the FAA may have been "trying to make security on the cheap."
Until a few months ago, the FAA was broadly regarded as the global leader in aviation security coming out of a nine-year period in which no-one had died in a domestic passenger accident on US soil – and other countries typically followed their FAA & # 39; s stay. But these assumptions have been monitored after the second 737 MAX accident occurred in Ethiopia on March 10, when the FAA took three days to land for the US fleet, although dozens of other nations closed their skies to the plane until the United States alone .
Since then, the EU and Canada have said they will make their own reviews independent of the FAA before deciding whether to let 737 MAX fly again.
DeFazio said his own proposal for a third party review has preceded one in emerging after the Department of Transportation due to Boeing's Dreamliners following a slate of smoke problems and electric fires. But the FAA ordered the Dreamliner review, which was performed by FAA and Boeing engineers who were independent only to the extent that they did not participate in the original Dreamliner certification. This report was not completed until nearly a year after the FAA re-certified the fleet so safely to fly again.
Now, one of America's top legislators is essentially indicated that the FAA is too close to Boeing to confirm that any 737 MAX solution is adequate in the midst of a cascade of control over the Agency's tendency to delegate its approval tasks to aircraft to the manufacturers it is to monitor. They include cadres of Boeing paid workers acting on behalf of the FAA to unsubscribe from compliance.
On Monday evening, DeFazio said he had concerns as Congress gave the new delegation in 2003, a strategy legislator repeatedly approved the legislation as recently as the autumn.
"I couldn't quite see how to create these firewalls," DeFazio said. "Someone writes your paycheck, but you're going to be there as" I represent the FAA and you're going to be completely immune to the pressure of the business, "he said, observing that the US has had a" really good decade " In terms of aviation security, and the delegation system "seemed to work." "But of course there are problems," he said.
The Senate will first go down on these issues with a hearing before a Trade Panel on Wednesday with a Great focus on how the plane was certified as safe to fly with construction flaws now suspected in two crashes. Some senators also want to know more about how the FAA reached its decision to convey the jets – and why it took longer than others nations – as well as how software modifications for the purpose of remedying a software error will be implemented.
Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), a member of the subcommittee, said he did not think of the hearing as a "gotcha moment". 9659008] "I want to know what their process is for implementing this new software and training," he said. "I want to look at a kind of tick-tock, the certification process, the self-certification, and I want to know why it was so quiet at the FAA during this 48-hour period" between the first earths in 737 MAX, as the United States took them off operation.
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) Said she is planning to question pilot training standards.
"If you have to fumble around in the cockpit and get the manual to find out what's going on, what is the international training regime and whose responsibility is it?" Capito said. "I don't think it's our FAA's responsibility to educate pilots in other countries, but I think it would go to Boeing and what kind of coordination the FAA has with other airlines around the world to have some uniformity in training . "
According to his reported testimony, Elwell will tell the panel that the Agency is aware that its oversight efforts should evolve to ensure that the FAA remains the global leader in aviation security. "
He also emphasizes that the Agency's delegation program" is not self-certification; The FAA maintains strict supervisory authorities. "He would say that the FAA was" directly involved in the system security survey "of the Boeing 737 MAX anti-stall system, and that the FAA tested Boeing's proposed software update, originally sent to the agency on January 21, about three months. after a 737 MAX operated by Indonesia's Lion Air fell into the Java Sea. Staff expect not only sub-panel members, but also members of the full Commerce Committee will question Elwell, Transportation Department Inspector General Calvin Scovel and National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Robert Sumwalt.
Chairman of the Subcommittee, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), intends to hold further consultations on future breakdowns, staff said.
Earlier Wednesday, Elaine Chao's transport secretary will appear within a Senate Appropriation Sub-Panel to answer questions about President Donald Trump's draft budget. But members could also ask Chao about the FAA and Boeing.
Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) Has questioned why the FAA did not mandate that 737 MAX jets have a so-called negligent light that turns on if the aircraft's two angle sensors have different readings. Boeing offered a "disagreement light", but only as an optional addition at extra cost.
Tanya Snyder contributed to this story.