US Senate panel to grill Boeing and FAA after fatal crashes

Both will be questioned on aviation safety after the recent Ethiopian Airlines accident and grounding of Boeing 737 Max aircraft

The Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft has come under scrutiny after similar deadly crashes in Ethiopia and Indonesia. Several countries and airlines have grounded 737 Max 8 planes. EPA
The Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft has come under scrutiny after similar deadly crashes in Ethiopia and Indonesia. Several countries and airlines have grounded 737 Max 8 planes. EPA

A US Senate panel plans to hold a hearing on March 27 on aviation safety after two fatal Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft crashes since October, it was announced on Wednesday.

The panel said it would also schedule a hearing with Boeing and other aircraft makers, officials said on Wednesday.

The hearing by the Senate commerce subcommittee on aviation and space will include US Federal Aviation Administration acting administrator Dan Elwell, national transport safety board chairman Robert Sumwalt and transport department inspector general Calvin Scovel.

Federal prosecutors are investigating the FAA's certification of the Boeing 737 Max that was grounded last week by regulators around the world.

The panel, chaired by Republican Senator Ted Cruz, said that "in light of the recent tragedy in Ethiopia and the subsequent grounding of the Boeing 737 Max aircraft, this hearing will examine challenges to the state of commercial aviation safety, including any specific concerns highlighted by recent accidents".

A second hearing on aviation safety is planned "in the near future to hear from industry stakeholders that would include Boeing, other aviation manufacturers, airline pilots and others," the committee said.

Boeing, the world's biggest plane maker, faces growing obstacles to returning its 737 Max fleet to the skies.

Details have emerged of what could be similarities between the Ethiopian crash on March 10, in which 157 people died, and one by Indonesian airline Lion Air last October 29, in which 189 were killed.

On Tuesday, President Donald Trump said he would nominate Steve Erickson, a former Delta Air Lines executive, to lead the FAA.

Mr Elwell has run the agency on an acting basis for 14 months.

A House panel also is expected to hold hearings in the aftermath of the fatal crashes. Boeing did not immediately comment Wednesday.

Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, who landed a flight safely on the Hudson River in New York in 2009, said in a Daily Mail opinion piece on Tuesday that the relationship between FAA and industry was "too cosy".

"In too many cases, FAA employees who rightly called for stricter compliance with safety standards and more rigorous design choices have been overruled by FAA management, often under corporate or political pressure," Mr Sullenberger wrote.

European and Canadian regulators also plan to conduct their own reviews of changes Boeing is making after the two jets crashed.

Patrick Ky, executive director of the European authority, said his agency would look “very deeply, very closely” at the changes Boeing and the FAA suggested to fix the plane.

“I can guarantee to you that on our side we will not allow the aircraft to fly if we have not found acceptable answers to all our questions, whatever the FAA does,” Mr Ky said.

The message was the same from Canada’s Transport Minister, Marc Garneau.

“When that software change is ready, which is a number of weeks, we will in Canada, even if it is certified by the FAA, do our own certification,” Mr Garneausaid.

Updated: March 21, 2019 05:15 AM


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