Acting FAA Chief Defends Agency's Safety Certification Process

Cheryl Sanders
May 18, 2019

In an interview with CBS News, Nadia Milleron, the mother of Samya Stumo, a 24-year-old passenger who was killed during the Ethiopian Airlines crash in March, said she is anxious that the process for recertifying the questioned Boeing 737 Max jets will be rushed.

Acting FAA chief Daniel Elwell told the House aviation subcommittee that his agency "welcomes scrutiny that helps make us better".

Boeing Co. has failed to turn over any records to House investigators about the flawed safety feature on the 737 Max implicated in two fatal crashes.

Boeing customers Southwest Airlines and American Airlines and their pilot unions have received subpoenas related to that investigation.

"As our work continues, I offer this assurance: In the United States, 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 told the House aviation subcommittee.

"I certainly wouldn't characterize it as rushed", Elwell said. The Boeing MAX issue should be a wakeup call to the FAA that it needs to separate itself from Boeing's influence and independently check the safety of Boeing's airplanes and systems.

"Elwell admits that the 'MCAS should have been more adequately explained in the [Boeing operations] manual and flight manual, absolutely.' But the FAA approved those manuals without any discussion of the MCAS".

"The meeting will provide a forum for airlines to exchange information about the experiences and challenges that they face as a result of the grounding and in their preparation for the reintroduction of the aircraft into operations, " IATA said.

"The FAA has a credibility problem", declared the subcommittee chairman, Rick Larsen, D-Wash. The crashes killed 346 people. In the recordings, pilots from American Airlines can be heard grilling a Boeing official over the safety of the planes and the fact that they weren't made aware of the stall-prevention feature that has now been linked to both deadly crashes. Boeing will train pilots before allowing the planes to fly again.

"We're not going to do it until it's safe", Elwell said.

Elwell said the agency expects to get the software upgrade and training update from Boeing in the "next week or so".

"I think that's an issue, sir, " Elwell said under questioning by DeFazio.

The pilots did not know the planes were equipped with the anti-stall system and their manuals had no explicit information.

"We flat out deserve to know what is on our airplanes", one pilot says on the recording.

The NTSB is assisting Ethiopian and Indonesian authorities in their investigations of the two crashes, Chairman Robert Sumwalt testified. The Allied Pilots Association, which represents the American Airlines pilots, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. No Boeing representative was scheduled to testify.

The investigation didn't uncover evidence that Boeing intentionally misled the FAA.

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.

Boeing said last week it only discovered once deliveries of the 737 MAX had begun in 2017 that the so-called AOA Disagree alert was optional instead of standard as it had intended, but added that was not critical safety data.

Other reports by iNewsToday