House Committee Faults Boeing, FAA For MAX Crashes


The fatal crashes of two Boeing 737 MAX aircraft were the result of “repeated and serious failures” by Boeing and the FAA, according to a report published by the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure on Wednesday. Finding the accidents to be “a horrific culmination of a series of faulty technical assumptions by Boeing’s engineers, a lack of transparency on the part of Boeing’s management, and grossly insufficient oversight by the FAA,” the committee called for Boeing to restore its focus on safety along with demanding that the FAA develop “a more aggressive certification and oversight structure.” The report (PDF) comes at the conclusion of the committee’s 18-month-long investigation into the design, development and certification of the grounded MAX.

“The Committee’s thorough investigation uncovered errors that are difficult to hear, but necessary to confront about the 737 MAX certification,” said Subcommittee on Aviation Chair Rick Larsen. “This report, combined with the findings and recommendations from the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines investigations, National Transportation Safety Board, Joint Authorities Technical Review and other entities, serves as a roadmap for changes to the FAA certification process.”

During the course of its investigation, the committee reports that it held five public hearings, interviewed more than 20 witnesses and obtained an estimated 600,000 pages of documents from Boeing, the FAA and other relevant parties. In addition, current and former Boeing and FAA employees were interviewed. The MAX was grounded in March 2019 following the crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 on March 10, 2019, and Lion Air Flight 610 on Oct. 29, 2018.

Kate O'Connor
Kate O’Connor works as AVweb's Editor-in-Chief. She is a private pilot, certificated aircraft dispatcher, and graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

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    • Pressing the bureaucratic thumb on the little guys is the easiest way to at least give the appearance of being proactive and on top of things. They’ll show those scofflaw rulebreakers!

  1. It took that circus clowns 18 months (and how much $$) to come this conclusion?

    I coulda told you the same thing in 1 day, 1 piece of paper, 1 sentence.

    Each person at FAA, Boeing, and Congress should be sent to Ethiopia and Indonesia to faces criminal charges. They are all incompetent, greedy, lazy, evil monsters, with selfish morals, ethics, and corruption oozing from every orphosis.

    • The report addresses aircrew training on pp 17-18. They particularly point to the Prepared statement of retired Captain Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger III, Hearing titled, “Status of the Boeing 737 MAX…” … June 19, 2019, accessed here:

  2. There is a lot of blame to go around. I think Boeing not having the system in their manual with an emergency procedure, no warning system it is operating and having no redundency are the main culprits. FAA getting to chummy with Boeing and maybe the attitude it is just a another 737. Combine this with pilots who are basically operators and not pilots and you have crashes and death. I think it is a sad reality that the system used by other countries is not preparing pilots to fly a plane but to manage and operate it. We saw this with the Asiana Airlines accident at San Fransisco when they hit the Sea Wall. The pilots just sat there and no one added power, basic airmanship.

  3. Some ranting and raving here so far. Really people? That’s what you get out of this?
    The Boeing errors listed are fairly spot on and need to be repeated daily. It would be good for Boeing’s Upper Management to be required to meet every morning and read out the list of names of those that died in those two crashes. After all, they are “money” people not engineers, mechanics, pilots, or operations people. To them, cutting costs and lowering unit costs to maximize profits and boost the stock price is the Holy Grail. Money going towards safety and reliability are simply wasted funds that keep the stock price down and make investors unhappy. I think you see where I am going here.

    The FAA fault part… while probably factual about the lack of a robust certification process could, reread that word… COULD… be a mite over played. Why you ask? How much of the FAA program of relying on manufacturer input to reduce their actual part in the cert process was politically driven? How much political pressure was placed on the FAA politically to help Boeing crank out the Max and help keep the stock prices up? What has been the effect of FAA budget issues on the work force in the cert process? What drove the FAA to go with such a program in the first place? Crew Training has been mentioned in this comments section… why was it an issue? Because several large operators didn’t want to face the training costs to crew a new “type”. Once again, training and budgets rear their ugly (costly) heads…. money people strike again. Congress is partly to blame for this mess as they are the ones that fund the FAA. What cuts have they demanded of the FAA that have leaked over to the Cert Branch? The FAA is crying for people, at least locally, but are able to do nothing to help otherwise highly qualified folks to get on board. They want “Safety Inspectors” locally where I am at, but they want folks like me, with 20K+ hours as an ATP in the military and civil world, with rating from the military as an instructor and Check Airman in heavy jets to go out on our own and get our CFI / CFII/ MEI / MEII etc. I already know that stuff but I am not going to lay out the thousands of dollars necessary to prove it and get a slip of paper. Ditto with HazMat. The local FAA Haz guy really needs a couple of more hands to cover his workload but they cut his total staff from 3 to 2 and one of those is only part time. Why?

    The same 737 Max short-cut issues cross to the KC-46 and the 787 as well. The AF is really unhappy with Boeing about quality control issues on the -46 for FOD in the fuel tanks and other issues like the boom problems. The 787 is in limbo over, at least, the “shims” question for parts not being put together correctly. Huh? Really…. money people again. Upper management is the issue at Boeing with their faster-faster-faster, out-the-door, next! attitude.

  4. Really? Nah. I can’t believe it’s the fault of the manufacturer and the government oversight process! All along I thought it was the pilots’ fault.

    • I think you’re being sarcastic, but just to clarify.

      Boeing failed to design, build and certify an aircraft system, MCAS. They also told operators that no differences training was required.

      The Indonesian NTSB (they’re trained by the FAA NTSB and use NTSB training kits, etc.) found shared blame between Boeing, the pilots and the mechanics (for not being meticulous with AoA maintenance.)

      I think the Indonesian NTSB was being overly polite, and should have weighted Boeing much more heavily.

      The Indonesian civil and military air organizations are at the end of the earth, but they do try their best. Boeing kicked their legs out from underneath them, so the outcome, a fatal accident, is no surprise.

  5. Correct me if I’m wrong but wasn’t it Congress that passed ODA which led to these catastrophes? Boeing and FAA have their share of the blame but I don’t see Congress taking its responsibility here.

    A lot of money and time spent on something we all knew. And the same non-aviation financial-only people sit at the helm. I’m not sure what am I supposed to feel after reading this but it is reassurance.

    • The ODA system lacks accountability, since they report to Boeing managers and are paid by Boeing. The ODA reps should report to the FAA.

      There should also be criminal charges for the false certification documents, centering on the incorrect trim rate. The FAA relies on paperwork to oversee our air system, so should be brutal in its enforcement of falsified documents. An FAA inspector shouldn’t have to walk around a Boeing factory to find out if things are ok, but that’s literally where we are.

      Besides the 737 MAX debacle, there’s several other lapses that show Boeing is reckless, including FOD in fuel tanks, wire chafing and wing cracks. These are across all of their current airliners, not just the 737.

      • I have worked in the various incarnations of the ODA system (DOA, DAS, ODA) for over 20 years. In its true sense, it does work. But, as has been pointed to, ethics plays a big portion in the system. Unit Members in the ODA system do wear 2 hats: employed by their respective company and delegated under the ODA by the FAA. Under a true ODA system, this is difficult at times as the company wants their aircraft or system or whatever. But the FAA has their processes to certify that company want. From what I have read in this case, the ODA system at Boeing broke down. Reports to cover this software addition did not reflect what actually was implemented. If the actual system would have been documented correctly, several flags would have gone up in the various safety documents and reports.
        I have only been under ‘undue pressure’ once in my career, and it was handled quickly by the ODA Administrator. But pressure from the company and how it is handled is an issue that needs to be well addressed in the ODA. Sounds like Boeing ODA needs some looking into.

  6. Just another House sub-committee investigation…one of many that permeate our vast bureaucracy daily. It gets the attention of the aviation population but lost to the average citizen whose daily news is saturated with one investigation after another.

    Covid-19 has insured that Boeing’s demonstrated penchant to satisfy investors at the expense of build quality and safety is now effectively over. There are 400 new 737’s with lot rot, load factors in the middle 20% range, and limited international flying at best. Today’s potential customer base has no or very limited cash flow for new airplanes, especially ones grounded by AD’s. Now there is time to correct Boeing’s corporate philosophy’s trajectory. Time will tell, if Boeing’s management gets “it” and gets “it” well enough to implement the changes. They have a lot of customer convincing at stake right now as back logs continue to dry up.

    As far as the FAA and Congress is concerned…I have no hope they will change. Their combined way of doing things, followed with the inevitable committee and sub-committee investigations, is so well intrenched, I don’t think there is a solution.

    Things seem to change only via the lobbying system. That is run entirely on greenbacks. Only the squeaky wheel gets the grease. As long as Boeing has and continues the traditional lobbying, nothing will effectively change. And the status quo, safety wise, so far, for the domestic traveler has been acceptably good enough. But that safety margin has been maintained by the American carriers, being maintained by American maintenance technicians, flown by American crews. How long this combination of quality airmanship combined with committed maintenance nationally can mitigate the quest for corporate profits being overseen by a greedy, greased palm expectation Congress remains to be seen.

    At least with Covid-19, the national commercial aviation transportation system as a whole, is not straining at max performance as it was in 2019. That should buy some additional time for incidences and accidents to continue at a low level. Then we will be able to maintain the acceptable ratio of numbers to satisfy the public and the next sub-committee hearing that all is well with commercial airline travel. At least the sub-committee investigations will shift to some other arena sparing Boeing and aviation in general of mainstream news media hype, misinformation, and political aggrandizing that is so popular with aviation accidents.

    This gives us more time to arm-chair quarterback the next new RG to hit the GA marketplace, the next pie-in-the sky, UAM, UAV, V-TOL, politically correct or politically incorrect “green” multiple rotary engine, electric, hybrid, piston, turbine, Tesla, powered wing thingy, promised to be in service yesterday but certified tomorrow. And the beat goes on.