The final House Transportation committee report on the fatal design flaws of Boeing’s 737 MAX—which killed 346 people in two accidents between 2018 and 2019—show the air disasters could have been avoided.
The 239-page report, which was released Wednesday, is the product of an 18-month investigation that confirmed time and again that Boeing caved into “production pressure that ultimately jeopardized the safety of the flying public.”
The committee cites competition with Airbus as a primary cause of cuts in costs to maintain the 737 MAX production, even though those shortcuts were fatal. “Our report lays out disturbing revelations about how Boeing—under pressure to compete with Airbus and deliver profits for Wall Street—escaped scrutiny from the Federal Aviation Administration, withheld critical information from pilots, and ultimately put planes into service that killed 346 innocent people,” the House committee chairman wrote. “What’s particularly infuriating is how Boeing and FAA both gambled with public safety in the critical time period between the two crashes,” Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) said.
The report quotes Boeing’s lead design engineer as being blindly unaware of the consequences of the MCAS software upgrade he approved that was designed to automatically push the jet’s nose down in certain conditions. He approved the software upgrade despite warnings from at least one test pilot that the changes made in 2018 could be “catastrophic”—which they were on two occasions, first in Indonesia in November 2018 and then in Ethiopia in March 2019, which led to the global grounding of the popular workhorse for many airlines.
The report also accuses Boeing of a “culture of concealment” saying they held back “crucial information from the FAA, its customers, and 737 MAX pilots,” adding that the pilots were expected to learn to mitigate and override the MCAS system, which few were thoroughly trained on.
The House committee members also fault FAA for giving Boeing so much leeway that led to the failure to report certain safety issues in their own self-regulation, suggesting that “conflicts of interest” jeopardized the safety of the flying public. They also cite several instances in which FAA officials gave Boeing a pass, overruling their own safety regulations to keep Boeing happy.
The committee also apologized to the survivors of both crashes. “On behalf of the families of the victims of both crashes, as well as anyone who steps on a plane expecting to arrive at their destination safely, we are making this report public to put a spotlight not only on the broken safety culture at Boeing but also the gaps in the regulatory system at the FAA that allowed this fatally flawed plane into service.”