Committee Chairs Seek Answers On Delayed Notice of Defects on Boeing 737 MAX

June 7, 2019 by Dan McCue
Boeing 737 MAX 7 Completes Successful First Flight. (Boeing)

WASHINGTON – Representatives Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, and Rick Larsen, D-Wash., chairman of that body’s Aviation Subcommittee, want to know when Boeing and others first learned of a serious defect in the 737 MAX passenger jet, and why it took so long for airlines to be notified of it.

In letters to Boeing, United Technologies Corp. and the Federal Aviation Administration, Representatives DeFazio and Larsen ask the recipients to provide a timeline and supporting documents related to when they first became aware that the Angle of Attack Disagree alert on some 737 MAX planes was defective, and what was done to warn airlines flying the planes of the danger associated with it.

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 congressmen 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,” DeFazio said.

“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 Representative 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,” he added.

Representative Larsen said he personally has questions about the decision to not deem the AOA Disagree alert as safety critical, and said he’s concerned it took Boeing so long to report this defective feature to the FAA and its customers.

“An important part of the committee’s investigation is finding out what Boeing knew, when the company knew it and who it informed,” Larsen said.

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 also 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 whistleblower webpage can be found here.

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