July 1, 2020 / 1:38 PM / a month ago

Boeing 737 MAX report may boost effort to reform U.S. airplane certification

FILE PHOTO: A Boeing 737 MAX airplane lands after a test flight at Boeing Field in Seattle, Washington, U.S. June 29, 2020. REUTERS/Karen Ducey

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A new report into the Federal Aviation Administration’s decision to certify the Boeing 737 MAX may help proponents seeking reforms to the long-standing practice of delegating some aircraft certification tasks to manufacturers.

On Wednesday, the Transportation Department’s inspector general released a 52-page report that said Boeing withheld key information about a crucial safety system known as MCAS, that is tied to two fatal crashes and raises questions about whether Boeing employees performing work for the FAA faced undue pressure.

On June 16, Senate Commerce Committee chairman Roger Wicker and the top Democrat on the panel Maria Cantwell introduced legislation to strengthen FAA oversight of aircraft certification.

It aims to eliminate the ability of aircraft makers like Boeing to unduly influence the certification process, marking the most significant step toward reforms following the 2018 and 2019 crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia that killed a total of 346 people.

Representative Peter DeFazio, who chairs the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, told Reuters last week he planned to introduce his airplane certification reform bill in September. He praised some aspects of the Senate measure but said “our bill will be stronger.”

DeFazio praised the inspector general’s report.

“The more scrutiny we put on Boeing and the FAA, and the more we dig into why and how the system failed so horribly and led to the deaths of 346 innocent people, the better chance we have of fixing the system to ensure no family has to endure this nightmare again,” DeFazio said in a statement.

DeFazio said the IG report reinforced some findings in the committee’s ongoing 737 MAX investigation, “including Boeing’s efforts to conceal critical information from regulators in its rush to get the MAX to market.”

Boeing said Tuesday it was “committed to transparency with the FAA during all aspects of the airplane certification process.” FAA said it is making significant changes to how it oversees certification tasks delegated to Boeing.

Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Bernadette Baum

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