DAVID GREENE, HOST:
A sweeping congressional inquiry has found damning evidence of failures at both Boeing and at the Federal Aviation Administration in the development and certification of the 737 Max. The report says these failures contributed to two Max plane crashes killing 346 people. Here's NPR's David Schaper.
DAVID SCHAPER, BYLINE: The House Transportation Committee investigation finds that there was no singular technical flaw or pilot failure that led to the deadly 737 Max plane crashes in Indonesia in October of 2018 and Ethiopia the following March. Instead, it describes the circumstances that led up to them almost like a perfect storm, calling it the 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The report details Boeing's flawed design of a new automated flight control system on the plane and mistakes in using outdated and faulty assumptions of pilot response as well as a culture of concealment, keeping information from the FAA, its customers and the pilots who would fly the plane.
PETER DEFAZIO: There's something that came out of this that's just - it's mind-boggling.
SCHAPER: House Transportation Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio oversaw the inquiry and says what's mind-boggling is that both Boeing and the FAA contend they followed proper procedures. It found the 737 Max to be compliant.
DEFAZIO: That's the bureaucratic word - it was compliant. But the problem is it was compliant and not safe, and people died.
SCHAPER: The report also details how Boeing employees were under enormous pressure to keep costs down and the plane on schedule. Aviation Subcommittee Chairman Rick Larsen says misguided priorities of senior management drove a number of troubling decisions.
RICK LARSEN: In one case, senior management went as far as installing countdown clocks in conference rooms, making clear to Max employees that meeting production timelines rather than safety was a top priority.
SCHAPER: The congressional investigation is one of many into what caused the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines 737 Max plane crashes. Christine Negroni is an aviation journalist and author of the book "The Crash Detectives." And she says while much of this information isn't new...
CHRISTINE NEGRONI: In the whole, what is, to me, astonishing about the report is the depth, the thickness and the deep history of both FAA and Boeing knowing that there were problems with the redesign of this airliner and the obliviousness of both parties in recognizing that this was a problem that needed to be addressed.
SCHAPER: Another thing Negroni finds remarkable is that a number of people did raise safety concerns about the 737 Max. But those were either inadequately addressed or just dismissed by Boeing, many of them never seeing the light of day at the FAA. And that's an especially painful realization for the families of those who died in the Max crashes.
MICHAEL STUMO: It angers us to see how much Boeing did to cover this up and how much FAA has done to help them cover it up.
SCHAPER: Michael Stumo's daughter, 24-year-old Samya Rose Stumo, was on the plane that crash last year in Ethiopia. He believes evidence in this report now shows that the first plane crash in Indonesia was preventable.
STUMO: But then the covering up to keep the Max in the air after the Lion Air crash so that it crashed again in Ethiopia and killed my daughter was unforgivable.
SCHAPER: In a statement, a Boeing spokesman says the company has learned many hard lessons from the plane crashes and its mistakes and has made fundamental changes to the company's safety culture and protocols as a result. The House Transportation Committee is now drafting legislation to improve FAA oversight in certifying planes. A Senate committee is expected to take up its own FAA reform bill later today.
David Schaper, NPR News.
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