sunny.png
Wednesday May 22nd, 2019 12:54PM

FAA chief defends handling of Boeing Max safety approval

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

WASHINGTON (AP) — The acting chief of the Federal Aviation Administration defended his agency's safety certification of the Boeing 737 Max jetliner, the plane involved in two deadly crashes, and the FAA's decision not to ground the jet until other regulators around the world had already done so.

During a congressional hearing Wednesday, the FAA official, Daniel Elwell, also stood by the agency's decades-old policy of using employees of aircraft manufacturers like Boeing to conduct inspections on their own companies' work.

Boeing is updating an automated flight-control system that has been implicated in the two crashes involving the 737 Max. Elwell said he expects Boeing to complete its work "in the next week or so," after which the FAA will analyze the software changes and conduct test flights.

"In the U.S., the 737 Max will return to service only when the FAA's analysis of the facts and technical data indicate that it is safe to do so," Elwell said.

Meanwhile, the Senate Commerce Committee held a short hearing for President Donald Trump's choice to take over the FAA: Stephen Dickson, a former Delta Air Lines pilot and executive.

During the two-hour questioning of Elwell by the House aviation subcommittee, lawmakers pressed him on the FAA's reliance on designated Boeing employees during the planes' certification process.

Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., told Elwell that the public believes "you were in bed with those you were supposed to be regulating, and that's why it took so long" to ground the planes.

"The FAA has a credibility problem," declared the subcommittee chairman, Rick Larsen, D-Wash.

The 737 Max is Boeing's best-selling plane and it is built in his home state of Washington. Larsen said Congress must help make the public feel safe about flying because "if they don't fly, airlines don't need to buy airplanes," and "then there will be no jobs" in aircraft manufacturing.

Other lawmakers defended the FAA and Boeing and suggested that the Oct. 29 crash of a Lion Air jet off Indonesia and the March 10 crash of an Ethiopian Airlines Max were due at least partly to pilot error. A total of 346 people were killed in the crashes.

"It bothers me that we continue to tear down our system based on what has happened in two other countries," said Rep. Sam Graves, R-Mo.

Boeing is already the subject of a criminal investigation by the Justice Department. Boeing customers Southwest Airlines and American Airlines and their pilot unions have received subpoenas related to that investigation; United Airlines, which also flew the Max until it was grounded in March, declined to comment, although its pilot union confirmed that it too has received a subpoena.

Congressional investigations into the FAA's relationship with Boeing are in the early stages. Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., who heads the full Transportation Committee, said he and Larsen have been frustrated after seeking information from Boeing.

"Boeing has yet to provide a single document," he said. "We've got to get to the bottom of this."

Elwell defended FAA's practice of designating employees of Boeing and other aerospace manufacturers to do some inspection work, saying it takes advantage of industry expertise, and "when done right, is indispensable to the health and safety of our system."

At a Senate hearing in March, Elwell said it would cost $1.8 billion a year if FAA did all the work done by designees at companies regulated by the agency.

On Wednesday, the acting chief defended the FAA's 2017 approval of the Max including its new automated flight-control system that can push the nose of the plane down if a single sensor detects that the plane could be nearing an aerodynamic stall.

That system, called MCAS, was triggered on both fatal flights by faulty sensor readings, and pilots were not able to regain control of the planes as they plunged to Earth. Airlines and pilots were not told about MCAS until after the October crash.

"When I first heard of this, (I) thought that the MCAS should have been more adequately explained in the ops manual and the flight manual," Elwell said.

Boeing is changing MCAS to make it less powerful, and to link the system to two sensors instead of one. And it will include more explanation of the system, Elwell said, "to make pilots more aware and respond better to an anomaly."

American Airlines pilots pressed Boeing in November — shortly after the first Max crash — to fix the software quickly.

"We don't want to rush and do a crappy job of fixing things," a Boeing official responded, according to a recording of the meeting. "We also don't want to fix the wrong things."

The Boeing representative called the Lion Air crash a tragedy, adding, "an even worse thing would be another one." He promised a software update in six weeks.

The update was still not done when the Ethiopian crash occurred more than three months later.

"Boeing did not treat the 737 Max 8 situation like the emergency it was," said Daniel Carey, president of the American Airlines pilots' union, which has filed public records related to the matter. Carey said his pilots are seeking "proper oversight" of Boeing, the FAA and airlines including their own.

Boeing representatives were not invited to Wednesday's hearing.

Nadia Milleron, whose daughter, Samya Stumo, was on the Ethiopian Airlines plane, was in the audience. She said FAA seems to be rushing to approve Boeing's fixes to the Max even before the accident investigations are finished — something that could take many months.

"It is possible that these planes should never go back in the air," she said.

Milleron, whose family is suing Boeing and Ethiopian Airlines, said travelers hold the final power to ground the plane.

"The only thing that is going to stop this is the public," Milleron said in an interview. "If the public is concerned and if the Boeing 737 Max 8 ... becomes toxic ... that's going to make a change."

Across Capitol Hill, the Senate Commerce Committee held a relatively placid hearing for Dickson, the nominee to replace Elwell, FAA's acting administrator since January 2018.

Dickson promised that if he is confirmed by the full Senate, he would not hesitate to take enforcement action against companies and FAA would not be captive to the industry it regulates.

U.S. aviation has an enviable safety record over the past decade, Dickson said, but the industry is only as good as the last takeoff or landing.

___

Koenig reported from Dallas, Krisher from Detroit.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top General short headlines, AP Online Headlines - Washington, AP Online Congress News, AP World News, AP Business
© Copyright 2019 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
FAA chief defends handling of Boeing Max safety approval
Congressional investigation into FAA approval of the Boeing 737 Max airliner heats up
2:39PM ( 4 minutes ago )
Sudan's army, protesters strike some deals in negotiations
Sudan's ruling generals, protesters say they're making progress in negotiations, agree on length of transition period
2:34PM ( 9 minutes ago )
Female veterans want new caucus and clout in US politics
Congresswomen who have served in the military are setting up a new caucus to support the nation's growing ranks of female service members
2:28PM ( 15 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
White House counsel criticizes House probe
The White House counsel has sent a letter to the House Judiciary Committee chairman, harshly criticizing an investigation into President Donald Trump and rejecting sweeping document requests
1:27PM ( 1 hour ago )
Pelosi warns Trump against war in Mideast; Dems demand info
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi warns Trump against war with Iran.
1:15PM ( 1 hour ago )
Tribes seek ban on public hunting of revered grizzly bears
Native American groups are pressing for permanent protections for grizzly bears, a species some tribes consider sacred but that has been proposed for hunting in Wyoming and Idaho.
1:13PM ( 1 hour ago )
AP Online Headlines - Washington
Mnuchin says courts need to settle fight over Trump's taxes
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says it's up to the courts to referee his dispute with House Democrats demanding access to President Donald Trump's tax returns
11:53AM ( 2 hours ago )
FAA chief faces questioning over Boeing 737 Max airliner
Congressional investigation into FAA approval of the Boeing 737 Max airliner heats up
11:22AM ( 3 hours ago )
Alabama ban on nearly all abortions in GOP governor's hands
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey will now decide whether to sign legislation that would outlaw almost all abortions in the state
11:18AM ( 3 hours ago )
AP Online Congress News
Germany's Merkel welcomes European unity over Iran
German Chancellor Angela Merkel says Europe needs to "reposition" itself in a changing world and is welcoming European powers' unity over Iran, a contrast with their deep divisions over the Iraq war 16 years ago
1:16PM ( 1 hour ago )
Poland demands reaction over assault of ambassador to Israel
Poland's Foreign Ministry says it has summoned the Israel ambassador after the Polish ambassador to Israel was assaulted and insulted on the streets of Tel Aviv
1:01PM ( 1 hour ago )
Happy 130th birthday, Eiffel Tower: Laser show for Iron Lady
Paris is wishing the Eiffel Tower a happy birthday with an elaborate laser show retracing the monument's 130-year history
12:35PM ( 2 hours ago )
AP World News
The Latest: UAE diplomat says coalition will retaliate
Top UAE diplomat says the coalition will "retaliate hard" over attacks on civilian targets after Yemen rebels' drone attack on a Saudi pipeline
1:44PM ( 58 minutes ago )
The Latest: Emirati diplomat: UAE committed to de-escalation
A top Emirati diplomat says the UAE is "very committed to de-escalation" after the alleged sabotage of oil tankers
1:34PM ( 1 hour ago )
2 rescued from scaffold near top of 50-story Oklahoma tower
Two window washers were rescued without apparent injury from a scaffold above the roof of an approximately 850-foot skyscraper in downtown Oklahoma City
1:14PM ( 1 hour ago )
AP Business
Sudan's army, protesters strike some deals in negotiations
Sudan's ruling generals, protesters say they're making progress in negotiations, agree on length of transition period
2:34PM ( 9 minutes ago )
Female veterans want new caucus and clout in US politics
Congresswomen who have served in the military are setting up a new caucus to support the nation's growing ranks of female service members
2:28PM ( 15 minutes ago )
World leaders, tech execs pledge to curb online violence
Facebook, Google, Twitter and other tech companies have joined a dozen countries in a global pledge to step up efforts to keep internet platforms from being used to spread hate, organize extremist groups and broadcast attacks
2:27PM ( 16 minutes ago )
Harris says she disagrees with Biden on crime bill's impact
Kamala Harris says she disagrees with former Vice President Joe Biden's assertion that the 1994 crime bill he supported did not lead to mass incarceration
2:22PM ( 21 minutes ago )
Falco, Perrette, Chuck Lorre sitcom set for new CBS season
"The Big Bang Theory" finale has yet to air and CBS is already back in business with its creator
1:57PM ( 46 minutes ago )