After two fatal 737 MAX crashes that killed 346 people, Boeing officials “improperly trained” test pilots during reconstruction efforts, a U.S. congressional report concludes.
The Senate Business Council report raised questions about the testing of a key security body called the MCAS in 2020.
The panel concluded that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Boeing officials had “established a pre-determined decision to reaffirm the long-standing human factor hypothesis regarding pilot reaction time.”
“The FAA and the Boeing 737 MAX are trying to cover up important information that may have contributed to the tragedy.”
The United States landed the 737 Max in March 2019 after two planes crashed due to faulty sensors and design flaws.
Friday’s report quoted a whistleblower as saying that Boeing officials had encouraged test pilots to use a certain amount of control during a drill, resulting in a pilot response time of four seconds. In a separate test another pilot reacted in about 16 seconds.
The account was confirmed during an interview with FAA staff, the group added.
Several reports have found that Boeing did not adequately consider how pilots respond to cockpit emergencies in the development of the 737 MAX.
Boeing said on Friday that it had taken the group’s findings “seriously” and would “fully review the report.”
The FAA said Friday it was “carefully considering the document, which the panel agrees with contains a number of unsubstantiated allegations”.
The agency added, “The security issues that played a role in the tragedy are promising [737 MAX] Accidents involving Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 have been resolved through design changes required by the FAA and its allies and independently approved ”.
Roger Wicker, chairman of the Senate Business Council, said the report included “failures in aviation security oversight and significant examples of failed leadership in the FAA.”
The panel also said that several independent whistleblowers had contacted the group accusing FAA senior management of complicity in determining the 737 MAX training certification level prior to any assessment.
Boeing objected that pilots needed simulator training before operating the 737 MAX, but changed course in January.
The report also said that Southwest Airlines was able to operate more than 150,000 jets carrying 17.2 million passengers without confirming that the necessary maintenance had been completed.
The Senate report said southwest flights “put millions of passengers at risk.” Southwest said it was aware of Friday’s report and that “we do not tolerate the relaxation of standards governing the final security of our operation.”
Boeing faces ongoing criminal investigation at MAX. The committee said its review was “barred due to ongoing criminal investigation”.
The FAA approved the return of 737 MAX service in November and flights have resumed in Brazil. The first U.S. 737 Max commercial flight with paid passengers is set for December 29th.