17-Sep-2020 9:48 AM

US 737 MAX report lays out 'serious flaws and missteps' in design, development, and certification

US House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure released (16-Sep-2020) its final report on the Boeing 737 MAX which "lays out the serious flaws and missteps in the design, development, and certification of the aircraft". The report contains five central themes and includes more than six dozen investigative findings. These themes include:

  • Production pressures jeopardised the safety of the flying public. There was "tremendous financial pressure" on Boeing and the 737 MAX programme to compete with Airbus' new A320neo aircraft. Among other things, this resulted in "extensive efforts to cut costs, maintain the 737 MAX programme schedule, and avoid slowing the 737 MAX production line";
  • Faulty design and performance assumptions. Boeing made "fundamentally faulty assumptions about critical technologies" on the 737 MAX, most notably the software designed to automatically push the aircraft's nose down in certain conditions. Boeing also expected that pilots, who were largely unaware that this software existed, would be able to mitigate any potential malfunction;
  • Culture of concealment. Boeing "withheld crucial information from the FAA, its customers, and 737 MAX pilots", including internal test data;
  • Conflicted representation. The FAA's current oversight structure with respect to Boeing "creates inherent conflicts of interest that have jeopardised the safety of the flying public". The report documents multiple instances in which Boeing employees who have been authorised to perform work on behalf of the FAA failed to alert the FAA to potential safety and/or certification issues;
  • Boeing's influence over the FAA's oversight structure. Multiple career FAA officials documented examples where FAA management overruled a determination of the FAA's own technical experts at the behest of Boeing. These are consistent with results of an FAA employee survey that showed many FAA employees believe senior leaders are more concerned with helping industry achieve its goals and are not held accountable for safety-related decisions. [more - original PR]

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