FAA overlooked ‘critical safety risks’ in Boeing 737 MAX

Senior officials at the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) failed to properly oversee safety tests on the flight-control system of Boeing’s 737 MAX aircraft, according to an internal investigation leaked to the press.

In an internal review set to be discussed before Congress on Wednesday, the FAA determined that its own personnel were lax in monitoring Boeing’s safety assessments and effectively allowed the company to conduct the testing on its own, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The findings reveal how the aircraft’s problematic flight-control system – whose catastrophic malfunctions have caused two fatal crashes since last October – made it through the FAA’s approval process despite ongoing safety issues.

Boeing failed to identify an automated anti-stalling feature as a potential hazard, the agency found. Greater scrutiny may have been given to the safety assessments had the company pointed out that risk, the internal review said.

Boeing is not accused of lying to the FAA or purposely circumventing certification rules, but the FAA’s hands-off approach to the 737 MAX raises questions about whether closer oversight could have prevented two plane crashes that killed a combined 346 people in Indonesia and Ethiopia.

The entire 737 MAX fleet was grounded in March, after the second disaster, but both Boeing and the FAA have come under fire for their handling of the aircraft’s testing procedures.

The House Aviation Subcommittee is scheduled to meet Wednesday to discuss the internal review’s findings.