In the first of a series of grillings on Boeing’s grounded 737 MAX, Daniel Elwell, acting administrator of the FAA, along with National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Robert Sumwalt, testified before the House Aviation Subcommittee on Wednesday, the latest in a round of inquiries and investigations surrounding Boeing’s 737 MAX. The safety of the aircraft has come under intense scrutiny in the wake of two crashes taking the lives of all 346 people on board.
And safety, according to Representative Rick Larsen, a Democrat from Washington and chairman of the House Aviation Subcommittee, underpins the entire industry: “If the public does not feel safe about flying, then they won’t fly. If they don’t fly, airlines don’t need to buy airplanes. If they don’t need to buy airplanes, then airplanes don’t need to be built. And if there’s no need to build airplanes, we don’t need jobs in aviation. Therefore, it is very clear, that the foundation of the U.S. aviation system is safety,” he said in his opening statement.
The three-hour hearing was held to start producing answers on how the FAA certified the safety of the 737 MAX. So far, requested information from Boeing has not been forthcoming, noted Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Representative Peter DeFazio, a Democrat from Oregon who opened his statement by saying that Boeing has yet to turn over a single document as requested by the committee.
Here were the three biggest takeaways:
Boeing should have been quicker to report a flaw in the software
Earlier this month Boeing revealed to the public that they discovered a software malfunction a year before the Lion Air crash. After review, company experts concluded “the existing functionality was acceptable until the alert and the indicator could be delinked in the next planned display system software update.” The FAA wasn’t told until after the Lion Air crash. “I am not happy with a 13-month gap between finding that anomaly and us finding out about it,” Elwell said. “We are looking into that and we will make sure that software anomalies are reported more quickly.”
Boeing has been working on an MCAS software update for the 737 MAX that will address the malfunction. Elwell indicated that the application for the update should be forthcoming in the next week or so, which puts Boeing a step closer to getting its planes in the air. Management at Boeing, according to an investor note this morning from Morgan Stanley, have found a “degree of optimism” as talks with customers and regulators proceed around getting the 737 MAX flying again, “which could potentially occur over the coming months.”
Boeing did a poor job communicating with pilots
It seems like a given. But since MCAS was only supposed to kick in during extreme situations, Boeing didn’t include it in the pilot manual, and so Lion Air pilots didn’t know about it–let alone the possibility of malfunction. It was a fact that surprised Elwell, a former pilot: “I, as a pilot, When I first heard about this, I thought …read more