The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Administrator, Stephen Dickson, testified today before the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee regarding the approval process of the fatally flawed Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. Ahead of the hearing, the Wall Street Journal revealed that an internal FAA report analyzing the Lion Air crash predicted the aircraft could experience as many as 15 similar catastrophic crashes over its lifetime. The safety risk was greater than Boeing or the FAA indicated to the public at that time, the WSJ explained.
Despite the significant risk, the Taram, or Transport Airplane Risk Assessment Methodology, showed that the agency agreed to keep the MAX in service. The agreement was conditioned upon an MCAS software update Boeing promised to implement within seven months of the Lion Air crash and its reiterating how airline crews should respond in the event of a similar MCAS misfire. Unfortunately, in less than five months, a second deadly crash claimed more lives, a combined total of 346 lives needlessly sacrificed.
“It all boils down to greed kills and if you have enough money and political power you can circumvent rules designed to keep people safe,” said Beasley Allen’s Mike Andrews who focuses much of his practice on aviation litigation and currently represents families of Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 victims.
The WSJ reported that after two years of service, the MAX’s safety record “amounted to two catastrophic accidents for every million flights” based on estimates of unofficial data by industry officials. Previous iterations of the 737 aircraft had a safety record of one fatal crash for every 10 million flights. The drop in the safety record also falls dismally lower than that of other Western-built jets, the WSJ noted, which is “one fatal crash for approximately every three million flights.”
Alan Diehl, a retired FAA and Pentagon air safety official, told the WSJ that the potential for 15 crashes of the MAX “would be an unacceptable number in the modern aviation-safety world.” Diehl was not involved in the MAX certification process.
During the latest congressional hearing, Administrator Dickson responded to lawmakers’ questions and criticism of the agency’s handling of the MAX certification. He told lawmakers that the MAX would not be recertified until all safety issues were addressed and pilots receive the training they need to safely operate the plane. He also reiterated that the aircraft would not be recertified this year as there were more processes the agency must complete. This is an outright rejection of claims by Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg that the plane would be flying again by the end of the year.
Further, Dickson confirmed that the agency would not delegate any part of the recertification process to Boeing, not even the airworthiness of each aircraft. The self-certification process used in the past by the agency allowed aircraft makers to certify much of their own products through the Organization Designation Authorization (ODA) program, which has garnered significant criticism in the wake of the MAX tragedies.
“It is good that the agency finally has filled its top leadership position. We can only hope he remains committed to what he expressed in today’s hearing – that nothing like this ever happens again,” Andrews said.
In addition to his Ethiopian Airlines crash clients, Mike has represented people seriously injured in a variety of aviation crashes, and the families of those killed in both civilian and military airplane crashes and helicopter crashes.