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US Senate Committee fault FAA oversight of Boeing

FILE PHOTO: Boeing logo painted at LABACE fair in Sao Paulo
FILE PHOTO: The Boeing logo is pictured at the Latin American Corporate Aviation Expo & Conference (LABACE) at Congonhas Airport in Sao Paulo, Brazil August 14, 2018. REUTERS / Paulo Whitaker / File Photo

December 13, 2021

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. Senate report released on Monday said the Federal Aviation Administration must do a better job of monitoring Boeing Co and certifying new planes, as well as reviewing allegations charges brought by seven industry whistleblowers.

The 97-page Commerce Committee report from Senator Maria Cantwell covers concerns raised following two deadly crashes of Boeing 737 MAXs over a five-month period that resulted in extended grounding. 20 months. Congress also passed sweeping reforms in December 2020 to how the FAA certifies new planes, which the agency is still working on.

“FAA oversight of the certification process has eroded,” the report found, the agency “over time, increasingly empowering” to Boeing and others.

The FAA, the report said, “should take immediate action to address undue pressure at Boeing’s safety oversight office”, adding that it is “regularly understaffed”.

Boeing said it was reviewing the report. “Boeing teammates are encouraged to speak up whenever they have safety or quality concerns,” the plane maker said, adding that many of the issues in the report “have been made public before.” here and Boeing has been working to address them with FAA oversight.”

“The FAA certification process encounters undue pressure on line engineers and production staff,” the report said. It said FAA Boeing’s supervisory office lacked enough safety engineers and it had to improve its safety culture.

Cantwell wrote to FAA Administrator Steve Dickson, asking him to review “the concerns raised by these whistleblowers and make the necessary changes to improve safety in the aviation industry.” She said she plans to hear more on aviation matters in 2022.

The FAA said on Monday that it “takes all whistleblower allegations seriously and does not condone retaliation against those who raise safety concerns.”

The Cantwell report also cites whistleblowers as saying GE Aviation’s GE9X engine program is “under undue pressure on production employees on behalf of the FAA.” A GE spokesman said the company had “thoroughly investigated these claims” and “found no undue influence”.

Last month, three Democrats in the US House of Representatives asked Dickson for more details about the agency’s oversight of the Boeing 737 MAX and questioned whether the manufacturer was fully responsible.

The Senate report said the 737 MAX crash and US landings, which were lifted by the end of 2020, “cost Boeing more than $20 billion and cause significant reputational damage to the surveillance system.” American aviation safety”.

Boeing agreed to a deferred prosecution settlement with the Justice Department in January, including $2.5 billion in fines and restitution for the 737 MAX crash.

“Boeing isn’t what it was two years ago, but they still have a lot of work to do,” Dickson said in November.

Last month, the acting head of the FAA office that oversees Boeing told the company that those appointed to do the work for the agency did not require expertise and some did not meet FAA expectations.

He said the FAA had given Boeing less responsibility for certifying planes and was “demanding more transparency from manufacturers”.

The FAA is currently scrutinizing a number of issues related to Boeing aircraft.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Dan Grebler)

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Bobby Allyn

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