Boeing 737 MAX to face first congressional hearing

Boeing’s ill-fated 737 MAX and federal regulators next week will face the first public grilling by Congress over the two fatal plane crashes in recent months.

Senator Ted Cruz, the Texas Republican, called for a hearing of the Commerce Subcommittee on Aviation and Space, for Mar 27, with three transportation officials, notably the acting head of the Federal Aviation Administration.

They will likely be asked why the regulator agreed to certify the MAX planes in March 2017 without requiring extensive additional training.

Cruz intends to hold a second hearing to question Boeing officials as well as pilots and others in the industry, according to the statement.

The Senate hearing, at an unspecified date, would be the first time that a U.S. congressional committee has called Boeing executives to appear for questioning about 737 MAX passenger plane crashes in October in Indonesia and Mar 10 in Ethiopia.

More than 300 people perished in the two crashes of 737 MAX 8s that occurred shortly after takeoff in Indonesia in October and in Ethiopia earlier this month.

Boeing and the FAA are under investigation by the Transportation Department for how the rollout of the jet was handled, especially the a new flight system, the MCAS stall-prevention system, which was implicated in the Lion Air crash in October.

Pilots have complained they were not informed about the new system, which can force the nose of the plane down if it gets an erroneous reading from a sensor making it appear the plane is at risk of stalling.

The committee will hear next week from FAA acting chief Daniel Elwell, as well as the Transportation Department’s chief investigator, Calvin Scovel, and National Transportation Board Chairman Robert Sumwalt.

The FAA said Wednesday it will review the information from the cockpit voice recorder and the flight data recorder from the Ethiopian Airlines accident as it becomes available.

“Understanding the circumstances that contributed to this accident is critical in developing further actions and returning aircraft to service,” the FAA said.

SOFTWARE UPGRADE

Meanwhile, the FAA on Wednesday sent a notification to global aviation authorities saying the installation of Boeing’s new automatic flight software in the grounded jets and related training was a priority for the agency.

Also on Wednesday, the Seattle Times reported the Federal Bureau of Investigation was joining the investigation into the MAX’s certification. An FBI spokeswoman in Seattle would neither confirm nor deny that it was a part of any investigation.

Criminal prosecutors at the U.S. Justice Department, who are also investigating the FAA’s oversight of Boeing, have issued multiple subpoenas to Boeing in an effort to find out more about how the MAX was certified and marketed, CNN reported late on Wednesday, citing sources briefed on the matter.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon Inspector General said it would investigate a complaint that Acting U.S. Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, a former Boeing executive, violated ethical rules by allegedly promoting Boeing while in office.

Source: AFP