Chairs DeFazio, Larsen Request DOT IG Investigation into FAA Certifying Boeing 737 MAX

Mar 20, 2019 Issues: Transportation & Infrastructure

Washington, D.C. – Today, Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio (D-OR), and Chair of the Subcommittee on Aviation Rick Larsen (D-WA) sent a letter to the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Transportation, Calvin L. Scovel III, requesting an investigation into the Federal Aviation Administration’s approach to certifying the Boeing 737 MAX.

“The Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is committed to making the world’s safest transportation system even safer. We understand that fully investigating the probable cause or causes of these accidents will take some time. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is the U.S. Accredited Representative assisting with the investigation and we have full faith in its thorough process and expert personnel to conduct a rigorous review. However, while the NTSB will examine these two accidents, we request that your office assess the FAA’s approach to certifying the Boeing 737 MAX. Regardless of the specific factors that led to these accidents, we believe such an examination can help enhance the effectiveness of the FAA certification process overall and identify improvements to oversight and safety of all new aircraft,” the Members wrote.

A full copy of the letter can be found below.

March 19, 2019

The Honorable Calvin L. Scovel III

Inspector General

U.S. Department of Transportation

1200 New Jersey Avenue S.E.

West Building, W70-300

Washington, DC 20590

 

Dear Inspector General Scovel:

               Every day, more than 2.6 million passengers take off and land safely in the United States—a total of nearly 965 million passengers in 2017.[1] However, two recent accidents involving the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft in Indonesia and Ethiopia, resulting in a total of 346 fatalities in five months, have raised legitimate safety concerns among the flying public, aircraft experts, regulators, and legislators.[2] While the investigations into the accidents are not complete, early indications suggest the two accidents are linked, underscoring the need to take a more proactive approach with safety to protect the traveling public.

            The Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is committed to making the world’s safest transportation system even safer. We understand that fully investigating the probable cause or causes of these accidents will take some time. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is the U.S. Accredited Representative assisting with the investigation and we have full faith in its thorough process and expert personnel to conduct a rigorous review.

            However, while the NTSB will examine these two accidents, we request that your office assess the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA’s) approach to certifying the Boeing 737 MAX. Regardless of the specific factors that led to these accidents, we believe such an examination can help enhance the effectiveness of the FAA certification process overall and identify improvements to oversight and safety of all new aircraft. Therefore, your review should, at a minimum, focus on the following areas:

  • Aircraft Certification. Evaluate how each of the new features on the Boeing 737 MAX, including positioning of engines on the aircraft and the corresponding changes to automation, angle-of-attack sensors, and new software, in particular the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), were tested, certified, and integrated into the aircraft.
  • Pilot Training Programs and Manuals. Examine the decision-making factors, including safety assumptions and human factor considerations that led to the FAA decision not to revise pilot training programs and manuals to reflect changes to flight critical automation systems.
  • Communication. Assess how new features of the aircraft, and potential performance differences in this aircraft, were communicated to airline customers, pilots and foreign civil aviation authorities.
  • Organization Designation Authorization (ODA). Evaluate if FAA’s reliance on designated ODA certification authority contributed to any of the factors you discover in your examination of the issues outlined above.
  • Corrective Actions. Examine and provide status reports on how corrective actions have been and are being implemented since the initial accident in October 2018, and whether pilots are being adequately trained before the 737 MAX is returned to revenue passenger service throughout the international aviation community.

            We appreciate your attention to this matter. If you have any questions regarding this request, please contact Douglas Pasternak on the Majority staff at (202) 226-1871.

Sincerely,

Peter A. DeFazio                                                       Rick Larsen

Chairman                                                                  Chair

Committee on Transportation                                    Subcommittee on Aviation and Infrastructure                                                                 

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