Boeing Co. 737 Max planes are seen at the company’s manufacturing facility in Renton, Wash., in March 2019. (David Ryder/Bloomberg)

Boeing Co. 737 Max planes are seen at the company’s manufacturing facility in Renton, Wash., in March 2019. (David Ryder/Bloomberg)

Lawmakers rip FAA for not disclosing documents on Boeing Max

A senator said the FAA hasn’t to respond to more than half of his committee’s requests for documents.

By David Koenig / Associated Press

The chairman of a Senate committee accused the Federal Aviation Administration of stonewalling lawmakers’ attempts to understand how the agency approved a Boeing jet that later suffered two deadly crashes and whether the FAA retaliates against whistle blowers in its ranks.

Roger Wicker, a Republican senator from Mississippi, said Wednesday that the FAA has failed to respond to more than half of his committee’s requests for documents, some of them made more than a year ago. The FAA hasn’t turned over anything since April, he said.

Wicker said he holds Stephen Dickson, President Donald Trump’s pick to lead the FAA, personally responsible for creating an adversarial relationship with Congress.

“It is hard not to conclude your team at the FAA has deliberately attempted to keep us in the dark,” Wicker told Dickson during a hearing of the Senate Commerce Committee.

Dickson disputed Wicker’s description of the FAA, but he promised “to redouble our efforts” to cooperate with Congress.

The committee’s top Democrat, Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington — where Boeing builds the long-grounded 737 Max — joined Wicker in criticizing FAA’s failure to turn over documents. Other Democrats accused FAA of having a culture of secrecy.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, pressed Dickson on whether Boeing lied to the FAA about safety concerns around the Boeing plane. Dickson avoided answering directly whether the Chicago manufacturer lied but agreed that the certification process was flawed.

“The manufacturer made mistakes, and the FAA made mistakes in its oversight of the manufacturer,” Dickson said.

This week, Wicker and Cantwell introduced legislation to revamp the FAA’s process for certifying new passenger planes. The bill would not eliminate FAA’s decades-long policy of relying on employees of aircraft manufacturers such as Boeing to test and analyze safety of key systems, but it would change it. For example, the bill would require FAA — not the companies — to pick those insiders and monitor them more closely.

Dickson said changing who selects company insiders to do safety work “is not something that I believe would add to the safety of the process.” He noted that so-called designees already must meet FAA qualifications and are overseen by FAA inspectors. “It is a trust but verify system,” he said.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., fired back, “The FAA has to do the work, not just oversee it.”

The FAA lets about 80 manufacturers use their own engineers, called designees, to certify safety of their planes.

FAA officials and some lawmakers say that practice is necessary and even beneficial because of the expertise of the insiders and FAA’s limited budget. Last year, FAA’s leader at the time estimated it would cost nearly $2 billion a year for FAA to perform all the work now done by manufacturers.

However, the “organization designation authorization” program, or ODA, was heavily criticized after it was disclosed that FAA officials had little understanding of a key flight-control system on the Boeing Max that has been implicated in crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia. The 346 people killed in those crashes combined came from many countries, including the United States.

The father of one of the victims was scheduled to testify before the Senate panel later Wednesday. While Dickson spoke, someone stood behind him and held a poster with photos of victims of the Max crash in Ethiopia.

The Max has been grounded worldwide since March 2019. Boeing hopes to win FAA approval this year for changes it is making to the plane so airlines can resume using it. Dickson said, as he has many times, that FAA will approve Boeing’s work when it is convinced the plane is safe.

Talk to us

More in Herald Business Journal

Logo for news use featuring Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Business Briefs: State minimum wage rises in January

Also, Boeing workers’ donations support local nonprofits and fundraiser for businesses impacted by Bolt Creek wildfire.

Jollee Nichols, right, and daughter Ruby, 2, work on an art project together at the Imagine Children’s Museum on Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2022 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
With new addition, Imagine Children’s Museum doubles in size

More than just space, the Everett museum’s new $25 million wing is an investment in mental health.

Artistic rendering of 526 Speedway exterior. (Mosaic Avenue Realty Ltd.)
Mosaic Homes looks to add industrial condo space in Mukilteo

Mosaic Homes steps into commercial real estate development with 526 Speedway, an industrial condo project.

Andy Illyn with a selection of his greeting cards, Cardstalked, that are sold at What’s Bloomin’ Floral on Friday, Oct. 28, 2022 in Arlington, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Adventure-seeking cop finds new thrill in greeting cards

Mukilteo assistant police chief Andy Illyn unwinds by turning puns and dad jokes into greeting cards.

Dan Murphy, left, Mary Fosse and Rex Habner. (BadgleyPhotography.com / Snohomish & Island County Labor Council)
Everett City Council member honored by local labor council

Mary Fosse, candidate for District 38, receives the first annual Mike Sells Labor Champion award.

Erika Heer is an EVP, Chief Human Resources Officer at Coastal Community Bank.
Tips for Businesses to Prepare for the Pay Transparency Law, Effective Jan. 1

A recent amendment to Washington law will soon require employers to disclose… Continue reading

Lisa Lefeber, CEO of the Port of Everett, speaks to a crowd while in front of a sign celebrating the opening of the new Norton Terminal on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022, at the Port of Everett in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Port of Everett christens new Norton cargo terminal

The $40 million terminal took two years to complete and doubles the port’s storage capacity.

Screen printed dish towels available at Madrona Supply Company on Saturday, Oct. 22, 2022 in Clinton, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Do some good along with your Christmas shopping

Head across the Sound to Whidbey Island for gift-buying with a do-gooder spirit

Shoppers walk in and out of Macy’s at Alderwood Mall were Black Friday deals are being advertised on Thursday, Nov. 17, 2022 in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Go ahead, hit snooze: Most Black Friday deals are online

Braving the stores on Black Friday is still a thing, but more retailers are closed on Thanksgiving.

FILE - In this photo provided by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources, a crane and boats are anchored next to a collapsed "net pen" used by Cooke Aquaculture Pacific to farm Atlantic Salmon near Cypress Island in Washington state on Aug. 28, 2017, after a failure of the nets allowed tens of thousands of the nonnative fish to escape. A Washington state jury on Wednesday, June 22, 2022, awarded the Lummi Indian tribe $595,000 over the 2017 collapse of the net pen where Atlantic salmon were being raised, an event that elicited fears of damage to wild salmon runs and prompted the Legislature to ban the farming of the nonnative fish. (David Bergvall/Washington State Department of Natural Resources via AP, File)
State won’t renew leases for Puget Sound fish farms

Cooke Aquaculture has until Dec. 14 to wrap up steelhead farming and begin deconstructing their equipment.

Kevin Flynn, right, a meat-cutter with the Marysville Albertsons, hands a leaflet to a shopper during an informational campaign on Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2022. Flynn was one of about a dozen grocery store workers handing out leaflets to shoppers about the proposed merger between Albertsons and Kroger. (Mike Henneke / The Herald)
Proposed merger of Albertsons and Kroger worries employees

Workers at an Albertsons in Marysville urge shoppers to sign a petition blocking the $25 billion deal.

Kim Taylor, left, and Jeff Stoner co-own Greenbank Cidery, a newly opened taproom on Whidbey Island with eight varieties of cider on tap. (Rachel Rosen / Whidbey News-Times)
Cider tasting room opens on Whidbey Island

The owners of Greenbank Cidery have opened a tasting room in Coupeville. Eight varieties of cider are on tap.