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Congressional panel says Boeing has ‘culture of concealment’

Staffers for the committee’s Democratic majority made the comments in a preliminary summary of the panel’s nearly year-long investigation of Boeing’s development of the Max and the FAA’s decision to approve the plane.

The committee has held five hearings and disclosed troves of internal Boeing documents that highlighted company employees’ safety concerns about the Max. The panel’s summary did not break new ground, but it illustrated the breadth and depth of one of several investigations currently underway into Boeing.

Navy personnel gather around debris recovered from the sea where the Lion Air jet that crashed in the waters of Tanjung Karawang, Indonesia, in November 2018.

Navy personnel gather around debris recovered from the sea where the Lion Air jet that crashed in the waters of Tanjung Karawang, Indonesia, in November 2018.Credit:AP

Boeing spokesman Bryan Watt said the Chicago-based company has “cooperated extensively for the past year with the committee’s investigation” and will review the preliminary report.

The FAA said its certification procedures “are well-established and have consistently produced safe aircraft designs,” but it welcomed the scrutiny. “We are confident that our openness to observations and recommendations will further bolster aviation safety worldwide,” said FAA spokesman Lynn Lunsford.

Republicans on the Transportation Committee suggested that the report by the Democratic staff had gone too far in faulting how FAA approves new planes.

Other investigations into the Max accidents and FAA’s oversight of Boeing have found problems with Boeing’s assumptions about pilot reaction in emergencies and the FAA’s expertise in understanding complex automation in the Max.

Family members of crash victims holding up photographs of their loved ones at a US Senate hearing last year.

Family members of crash victims holding up photographs of their loved ones at a US Senate hearing last year.Credit:Bloomberg

However, “None of these expert reviews or investigations have come to the conclusion that our safety certification system is broken or in need of wholesale dismantlement,” said the two top Republicans on the committee, Sam Graves of Missouri and Garret Graves of Louisiana.

The committee Democrats’ report said Boeing jeopardised safety by pressuring employees to speed up production of the plane and by making incorrect assumptions about important technology, especially the flight-control system, which is called MCAS. The company concealed key information from the FAA and didn’t tell pilots about MCAS until after the first crash.

The House committee, led by Democrat Peter De Fazio said it is still conducting interviews and reviewing records as part of its investigation. The committee said it was considering legislation to improve FAA oversight of new aircraft.

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That legislation is expected to focus on the FAA’s policy of deputising some employees at Boeing and other manufacturers to conduct safety-related analysis and testing. FAA officials have defended that decades-long policy, saying it has produced safe aeroplanes. They point out that there have been no fatal crashes involving US airline planes since 2009, an unprecedented safety streak.

Families of passengers who died in the second crash will gather in Ethiopia on Tuesday at a memorial service to mark the anniversary.

AP

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