Multiple Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) whistleblowers have voiced concerns to the Senate Commerce Committee that FAA safety inspectors who reviewed and approved Boeing’s 737 Max aircraft lacked proper training and qualifications.
In a letter to Acting FAA Administrator Daniel Elwell, Sen. Robert Wicker (R-Miss) said that “multiple whistleblowers” approached Congressional investigators with information indicating “numerous FAA employees, including those involved in the Aircraft Evaluation Group for the Boeing 737 MAX, had not received proper training and valid certifications.”
Those allegations, which the FAA may have known about since August 2018, according to the whistleblowers and documents reviewed by the committee, have taken on more weight following the crashes of Lion Air flight 610 in October and Ethiopian Air flight 302 last month.
The crashes killed 346 people collectively and both involved brand-new Boeing 737 Max 8 jets, leading to a worldwide grounding of more than 300 of the aircraft.
“In light of recent 737 crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia, the committee is investigating any potential connection between inadequate training and certification of Aviation Safety Inspectors who may have participated in the [Flight Standardization Board] evaluation of the 737 MAX,” Sen. Wicker wrote.
Mr. Elwell denies that the alleged lack of training and credentials factored into the problems experienced by the doomed flights as well as other 737 Max 8 flights that landed safely, but said that allegations one FAA whistleblower raised, including retaliation by superiors, “were substantiated during” an internal investigation “and will be remedied as soon as possible.”
“The front line manager that was found to have retaliated against our inspector is no longer with the FAA,” Mr. Elwell said.
Boeing is currently working on a software fix for the flight systems in its 737 Max jets. Meanwhile, it has slowed production of the model to 42 airplanes per month, down from 52 per month as it works on the fix. The company has a backlog of about 4,600 planes on order, which will take more than seven years to fill.