Chairs DeFazio and Larsen Seek Answers About Delayed Notice of Defective Angle-of-Attack Alert on 737 MAX

Jun 7, 2019 Issues: Transportation & Infrastructure

Washington, DC – Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Chair of the Aviation Subcommittee Rick Larsen (D-WA) sent letters to Boeing, United Technologies Corp. (UTC), and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requesting a timeline and supporting documents related to when they became aware that the Angle of Attack (AOA) Disagree alert on some Boeing 737 MAX planes was defective, as well as when airlines were notified about this defect.

The Committee held its first hearing on the status of the 737 MAX as part of its investigation into the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines accidents that claimed the lives of 346 people three weeks ago. Boeing has acknowledged that it first learned of the defective AOA Disagree alert in 2017 soon after it began delivery of the 737 MAX aircraft. However, Boeing did not inform the FAA about the defect until after the October 2018 Lion Air tragedy, more than one year later.

The Chairs noted in their letters that the Committee obtained information suggesting that Boeing decided in November 2017 to defer a software update to correct the AOA Disagree alert defect until 2020, three years after discovering the flaw, and only accelerated its timeline after the October 2018 Lion Air accident.

“As Chairman of the Committee with oversight authority over the safety of our aviation system, I am committed to running a rigorous investigation that explores any and every possibility about where things went wrong with the 737 MAX,” said Chair DeFazio. “The fact that Boeing knew about a defect for more than a year before disclosing it to the FAA is of great concern to me, which is why Chair Larsen and I are asking for further documentation to get a more fulsome picture of who knew what and when. It’s critical we leave no stone unturned during our Committee’s investigation.”

“An important part of the Committee’s investigation is finding out what Boeing knew, when the company knew it and who it informed,” said Subcommittee Chair Larsen. “I have questions about the decision to not deem the AOA Disagree alert as safety critical and I am concerned it took Boeing so long to report this defective feature to the FAA and its customers. The information the Committee is requesting will help us better understand management decisions.”

This is the second series of records request letters the Committee has sent to Boeing and the FAA regarding the Committee’s investigation of the 737 MAX aircraft. Chairs DeFazio and Larsen sent the first letters on April 1, 2019.

The Committee has established a whistleblower webpage and is encouraging any current or former officials or employees of Boeing and the FAA who are familiar with the FAA’s aircraft certification program to share any information that would be of interest to the Committee and its investigation into the FAA’s certification of the Boeing 737 MAX. The website allows anyone to submit information anonymously.

The Whistleblower webpage can be found here: https://transportation.house.gov/whistleblower-rights

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