Daniel Lipinski

09/16/2020 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 09/16/2020 18:30

Lipinski: Committee Investigation Reveals that FAA and Boeing Employees Unacceptably Failed to Prioritize Safety of Boeing 737 MAX Prior to Two Catastrophic Crashes that Killed[...]

Today, Congressman Dan Lipinski (IL-03) issued a statement after the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure released the final report on its 18-month investigation into the certification of the Boeing 737 MAX. The Committee's investigation, authorized and led by Chair Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Aviation Subcommittee Chair Rick Larsen (D-WA), lays out serious flaws and missteps in the design, development, and certification of the aircraft, which entered commercial service in 2017 before suffering two deadly crashes within five months of each other that killed 346 people, including eight Americans. Rep. Lipinski participated in multiple hearings during the Committee's investigation, and sharply questioned Boeing executives and FAA officials about their decisions regarding the certification of the Boeing 737 MAX.

'From the beginning of the House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee investigation, I said over and over again in committee hearings that something went terribly wrong in the certification of the Boeing 737 Max plane and Congress must do all we can to fix the process to ensure safety,' said Congressman Lipinski. 'The release of the Committee's final report today provides clear examples of how employees at both Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) made numerous decisions that failed to prioritize safety. This is completely unacceptable. The report also reaffirms my contention that the Boeing 737 Max should not have been certified to fly. We owe it to the 346 victims and families of the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines plane crashes to enact thoughtful legislation that reforms the oversight and certification processes. I will continue to work with my colleagues on the T&I Committee on legislation which we hope to advance later this month that will ensure these preventable tragedies never happen again.'

In March 2019, the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure launched an investigation into the design, development, and certification of the 737 MAX, and related issues after a second crash involving a Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. As part of the 18-month long investigation, the Committee held five public hearings with more than 20 witnesses, wrote nearly two dozen oversight letters, obtained an estimated 600,000 pages of documents from Boeing, the FAA, and others, received information and insight from former and current employees who contacted the Committee directly through the Committee's whistleblower link, and interviewed dozens of current and former Boeing and FAA employees.

The Committee's 238-page report, which points to repeated and serious failures by both Boeing and the FAA, contains five central themes and includes more than six dozen investigative findings. These themes include:

  • Production pressures that jeopardized the safety of the flying public. There was tremendous financial pressure on Boeing and the 737 MAX program to compete with Airbus' new A320neo aircraft. Among other things, this pressure resulted in extensive efforts to cut costs, maintain the 737 MAX program schedule, and avoid slowing the 737 MAX production line.
  • Faulty Design and Performance Assumptions. Boeing made fundamentally faulty assumptions about critical technologies on the 737 MAX, most notably with MCAS, the software designed to automatically push the airplane's nose down in certain conditions. Boeing also expected that pilots, who were largely unaware that MCAS existed, would be able to mitigate any potential malfunction.
  • Culture of Concealment. Boeing withheld crucial information from the FAA, its customers, and 737 MAX pilots, including internal test data that revealed it took a Boeing test pilot more than 10 seconds to diagnose and respond to uncommanded MCAS activation in a flight simulator, a condition the pilot described as 'catastrophic.' Federal guidelines assume pilots will respond to this condition within four seconds.
  • Conflicted Representation. The FAA's current oversight structure with respect to Boeing creates inherent conflicts of interest that have jeopardized the safety of the flying public. The report documents multiple instances in which Boeing employees who have been authorized to perform work on behalf of the FAA failed to alert the FAA to potential safety and/or certification issues.
  • Boeing's Influence Over the FAA's Oversight Structure. Multiple career FAA officials have documented examples where FAA management overruled a determination of the FAA's own technical experts at the behest of Boeing. These examples are consistent with results of a recent draft FAA employee 'safety culture' survey that showed many FAA employees believed its senior leaders are more concerned with helping industry achieve its goals and are not held accountable for safety-related decisions.

To access the Final Report, newly released accompanying records, including transcribed interviews of both senior Boeing and FAA officials about the 737 MAX, as well as past statements, hearing videos, and more, click here.