FAA Administrator Steve Dickson speaks to lawmakers as Michael Stumo, holding a photo of his daughter Samya Rose Stumo, and his wife Nadia Milleron, sit behind him during a Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation hearing on the implementation of aviation safety reform at the US Capitol in Washington on Nov. 3. Samya Stumo was among those killed in a Boeing 737 Max 8 crash in 2019. (AP Photo/Amanda Andrade-Rhoades, file)

FAA Administrator Steve Dickson speaks to lawmakers as Michael Stumo, holding a photo of his daughter Samya Rose Stumo, and his wife Nadia Milleron, sit behind him during a Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation hearing on the implementation of aviation safety reform at the US Capitol in Washington on Nov. 3. Samya Stumo was among those killed in a Boeing 737 Max 8 crash in 2019. (AP Photo/Amanda Andrade-Rhoades, file)

Democrats push FAA for action against certain Boeing 737 Max employees

Rep. Rick Larsen co-signed the letter stating concerns over the “absence of rigorous accountability.”

By Dominic Gates / The Seattle Times

While Boeing is eager to put behind it the consequences of the two fatal 737 Max crashes, Democrats on the U.S. House Transportation Committee chaired by Rep. Peter DeFazio are pushing for more individual accountability for what went wrong at the company.

On Monday, DeFazio, D-Ore., and Rick Larsen, D-Wash., chair of the Aviation Subcommittee, asked Federal Aviation Administration chief Steve Dickson what actions the FAA has taken against individuals at Boeing responsible for two specific instances of apparent deception of customers and regulators during development of the Max.

“We are deeply troubled by the absence of rigorous accountability for Boeing’s past transgressions related to the 737 Max and the FAA’s failure to hold those who violated the public’s trust accountable,” the two wrote in a letter to Dickson.

The two cited instances are separate from those documented by the Department of Justice in its recent criminal indictment of former 737 Max chief technical pilot Mark Forkner.

The letter asks specifically for the FAA to go after others at Boeing who have not been publicly identified. The company declined to comment Monday.

Nonfunctioning crew alert let slide

The first issue cited relates to a Max flight deck alert designed to tell the pilots that the readings from the jet’s two angle of attack sensors disagreed. Boeing found out in 2017 that this alert was not functioning on the vast majority of Maxes. But it judged that the malfunction wasn’t a safety issue and decided not to fix it until a planned upgrade in 2020.

Boeing did not inform the FAA or its airline customers of the problem until after the first crash in late 2018.

DeFazio’s letter quotes former FAA acting Administrator Dan Elwell in 2019 stating that because this crew alert was approved as part of the Max’s FAA-certified design, “it was required to be installed and functional on all 737 Max airplanes.”

The letter points out that a Boeing engineer working as an authorized representative of the FAA “concurred with Boeing’s decision to delay the fix.” And “multiple individuals across the company were aware of this issue.”

“Boeing’s actions showed an utter disregard for the FAA’s regulatory process,” the letter states.

DeFazio and Larsen ask what the FAA has done “to hold Boeing accountable for deceiving its customers and violating the FAA’s regulations,” and specifically inquire whether that engineer “is still authorized to conduct work on behalf of the FAA.”

Effort to downplay MCAS

The second issue raised in the letter is an internal company meeting in 2013, the minutes of which detail “an explicit plan by multiple Boeing employees to downplay MCAS externally, including to regulators.”

MCAS — the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System — is the flight control system that activated erroneously on the two crash flights and forced both planes into nosedives.

“If we emphasize MCAS is a new function, there may be a greater certification and training impact,” the minutes of that meeting noted.

Again, DeFazio and Larsen’s letter notes that “a Boeing Authorized Representative signed off” on the plan to downplay MCAS.

And it cites the committee’s interview in 2020 with the Chief Project Engineer on the 737 Max, Michael Teal, who testified that avoiding flight simulator training requirements for pilots was a “design objective” of the Max program.

This illustrates, the letter concludes, that “there were multiple efforts at Boeing from the top of the company on down that emphasized both the critical importance of avoiding flight simulator training as an FAA requirement and the fact that full and clear knowledge of MCAS by external parties, including regulators, could jeopardize that corporate goal.”

The letter asks what actions the FAA has taken to investigate the 2013 meeting.

“What, if anything, has FAA done to hold any of the individuals at Boeing accountable who took part in Boeing’s 2013 efforts to downplay MCAS?” the letter asks.

Specifically, it asks if the Boeing Authorized Representative who approved the plan is still authorized to conduct work on behalf of the FAA.

This renewed push for more accountability comes after Boeing came to a legal agreement this month with the families of those who died in the Ethiopian Airlines crash that laid out a process to settle almost all the claims.

That agreement covers almost all the outstanding claims against the company.

Meanwhile, the Max is back in the sky, with about 1,300 Max flights per day, according to FAA data.

As of the end of October, 207 of the 380 Maxes that had been delivered before the grounding were back in service around the world. And another 203 new Maxes had been cleared by the FAA to fly passengers.

Talk to us

More in Herald Business Journal

Think Tank Cowork in Everett, Washington on July 19, 2022. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
The first co-working space opens in downtown Everett

Think Tank Cowork’s owner hopes the facility will inspire other business owners to call Everett home.

New LGI Homes on Thursday, May 12, 2022 in Sultan, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
The real estate market took an abrupt turn this spring

Mortgage rates are up, but home inspections, seller concessions are back on the table for buyers.

The Lab@Arlington is a new one-stop shop for entrepreneurs and inventors located at 404 N. Olympic Ave. (Photo credit: TheLab@Arlington)
New Arlington business incubator opens

TheLab@Arlington is a new one-stop shop for entrepreneurs, inventors and business owners.

Patrons view the 787 exhibition Thursday morning at the Boeing Future of Flight Musuem at Paine Field on October 8, 2020. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Paine Field was county’s No. 1 tourist attraction. Not now

Snohomish County officials hope festivals and outdoor activities will fill Paine Field tourist gap.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Stanwood in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Stanwood Chamber of Commerce ‘can’t keep the doors open’

The chamber is set to shut down at the end of the month due to financial challenges.

Maria Rios, a ferry worker of 13 years, helps Frank and Fran Butler, both of Washington, D.C., check out as the couple purchases food on Thursday, July 21, 2022, aboard the MV Suquamish ferry between Mukilteo and Clinton, Washington. Rios said food service returned to the Suquamish about three weeks prior. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Drink up! Happy hour on the Mukilteo-Clinton ferry is back

More galleys are reopening as pandemic restrictions scale back. Get out of your car for concessions just like at the ballpark.

OnTrac Logistics has leased a building now under construction at Bay Wood Business Park on Everett's waterfront. The shipping company will open a facility there later this year that will employ 400 people. (Artist Rendering/Broderick Group.)
New Everett shipping facility to generate 400 jobs

OnTrac Logistics has leased a new building on the 12½-acre Baywood Business Park on Everett’s waterfront.

The Flying Heritage & Combat Armor Museum at Paine Field in Everett. (Janice Podsada / The Herald) 20220419
Flying Heritage Museum to reopen with new owner at Paine Field

Walmart heir Steuart Walton bought the historic aircraft and artifacts. The museum is set to reopen within the year.

Renee's Contemporary Clothing store at 2820 Colby Ave. on July 11, 2022. The iconic downtown Everett store is closing in August after 29 years in business. (Janice Podsada/The Herald)
Renee’s, another iconic downtown Everett store, is closing

After 29 years in business, the longstanding clothing shop will shutter. In-person sales slowed when stores reopened.

FILE - The logo for Boeing appears on a screen above a trading post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Tuesday, July 13, 2021. Boeing is reporting a money-losing quarter as both its civilian-airplane division and the defense business are struggling. Boeing said Wednesday, April 27, 2022,  that it lost $1.24 billion in the first quarter and took large write-downs for several programs.  (AP Photo/Richard Drew, file)
Boeing sees best month for aircraft deliveries since 2019

The company delivered 51 passenger and cargo planes in June, its best month for deliveries in recent years.

The Alderwood Towne Center, a 105,000 square-foot strip mall, is located at 3105-3225 Alderwood Mall Blvd. The mall, which has been sold, is home to 20 businesses, including anchor tenants Marshalls and Michaels. Photo Credit: CBRE Group.
Lynnwood strip mall near Link Light Rail Station sold

Alderwood Towne Center, home to 20 businesses, could eventually be redeveloped to take advantage of light rail.

James Berntson shows how his farm uses a trellis system to control tomato plants on Tuesday, June 21, 2022, at Radicle Roots Farm in Snohomish, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Backyard business: Snohomish farm thrives on less than one acre.

James Berntson grew Radicle Roots Farm using smart crop planning and organic practices.