The U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure released findings from its investigation of the Boeing 737 MAX that killed 346 people in two deadly air crashes in 2018 and 2019. The report denounced Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), summarizing its findings, “They [the crashes] were the horrific culmination of a series of faulty technical assumptions by Boeing’s engineers, a lack of transparency on the part of Boeing’s management, and grossly insufficient oversight by the FAA.”
“As we have said before, these disasters, especially the flight that took the life of our clients’ family member, should never have happened,” said Beasley Allen’s Mike Andrews. Andrews represents families of victims of Ethiopian Airlines flight ET 302, one of the two deadly MAX crashes, and has visited the flight’s crash site several times.
“It is one of the worst outcomes of corporate greed taking priority over the value of human life,” he said.
Next month will mark the second anniversary of the first deadly crash, Lion Air flight 610, which crashed into the Indian Ocean shortly after takeoff. The second fatal crash, flight 302, occurred within five months of the first crash. Flight 302 plunged its passengers and crew 45 feet into the ground near Bishoftu, Ethiopia, at nearly 600 miles per hour.
The report, drafted by the House committee’s majority, “identif[ied] five central themes that affected the design, development, and certification of the 737 MAX and FAA’s oversight of Boeing. Acts, omissions, and errors occurred across multiple stages and areas of the development and certification process of the 737 MAX.” The themes include production pressures; faulty design and performance assumptions; culture of concealment; conflicted representation; and Boeing’s influence over the FAA’s oversight structure.
“These findings are by no means new, but do reinforce findings from other, similar investigations,” Andrews said. “Boeing and the FAA seem to be the only parties involved in these disasters that do not appreciate the need for significant changes in the approval and certification process, especially the need for stronger oversight by federal regulators.”
Key findings include:
- The FAA failed to ensure the safety of the traveling public. The agency’s certification review of Boeing’s 737 MAX was grossly insufficient and that the FAA failed in its duty to identify key safety problems and to ensure that they were adequately addressed during the certification process.
- Costs, schedule, and production pressures at Boeing undermined the safety of the 737 MAX.
- Boeing failed to appropriately classify MCAS as a safety-critical system, concealed critical information about MCAS from pilots, and sought to diminish focus on MCAS as a “new function” in order to avoid increased costs, and “greater certification and training impact.”
- Boeing concealed information from the FAA, its customers, and pilots that the AOA Disagree alerts were inoperable on most of the 737 MAX fleet, despite their operation being “mandatory” on all 737 MAX aircraft. To date, FAA has failed to hold Boeing accountable for these actions.
- Boeing’s economic incentives led the company to a significant lack of transparency with the FAA, its customers, and 737 MAX pilots regarding pilot training requirements and negatively compromised safety.
- Both Boeing and the FAA gambled with the public’s safety in the aftermath of the Lion Air crash, resulting in the death of 157 more individuals on Ethiopian Airlines flight 302, less than five months later.
The report comes on the heels of Boeing’s plan to return the MAX to commercial service, which it anticipates will happen next month. This summer, the FAA issued a proposed safety airworthiness directive (AD), signaling that it plans to soon lift the MAX’s grounding. The agency solicited public comments in response to its AD, a requirement before it can be finalized. The public comment period ends next Monday, Sept. 21.
Mike focuses much of his practice on aviation litigation. 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.