'We've Made Mistakes': Boeing Officials Face Lawmakers, Families On Capitol Hill

Oct 31, 2019

Boeing’s CEO faces lawmakers and grieving families. What needs to change to prevent systemic failures in the future?

Guests

Natalie Kitroeff, reporter for The New York Times covering Boeing and aviation safety. (@Nataliekitro)

Captain Larry Rooney, president of the Coalition of Airline Pilots Association (@CAPApilots), which represents over 30,000 professional airline pilots at 14 airlines. Captain at American Airlines with over 18,000 flight hours. A 35-year veteran of the airline industry with background in aviation safety, training and international and domestic operations.

Mike Perrone, national president of the Professional Aviation Safety Specialists, a union which represents FAA inspectors, technicians, engineers and others. Worked for the FAA for over 30 years. (@PASSNational)

From The Reading List

New York Times: “Boeing Hearing: Irate Lawmakers Confront C.E.O.” — “Facing Congress for the second day in a row, Boeing’s chief executive, Dennis A. Muilenburg, was confronted by irate lawmakers who presented new evidence that people inside the company raised concerns during the development of the 737 Max, which crashed twice in five months and left 346 people dead.

“Representative Peter DeFazio, Democrat of Oregon, began the hearing before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee by presenting several documents that offered new information about how Boeing designed an automated system in the plane, known as MCAS, which was later found to have played a role in both crashes.

“In a partially redacted email Mr. DeFazio displayed, a Boeing engineer raised concerns in 2015 about whether MCAS was vulnerable to malfunctioning if a single sensor failed. That is precisely what happened in both doomed flights, a Lion Air flight that crashed off the coast of Indonesia in October 2018 and another 737 Max that went down in Ethiopia in March.”

New York Times: “Before Deadly Crashes, Boeing Pushed for Law That Undercut Oversight” — “With a few short paragraphs tucked into 463 pages of legislation last year, Boeing scored one of its biggest lobbying wins: a law that undercuts the government’s role in approving the design of new airplanes.

“For years, the government had been handing over more responsibility to manufacturers as a way to reduce bureaucracy. But those paragraphs cemented the industry’s power, allowing manufacturers to challenge regulators over safety disputes and making it difficult for the government to usurp companies’ authority.

“Although the law applies broadly to the industry, Boeing, the nation’s dominant aerospace manufacturer, is the biggest beneficiary. An examination by The New York Times, based on interviews with more than 50 regulators, industry executives, congressional staff members and lobbyists, as well as drafts of the bill and federal documents, found that Boeing and its allies helped craft the legislation to their liking, shaping the language of the law and overcoming criticism from regulators.

“In a stark warning as the bill was being written, the Federal Aviation Administration said that it would ‘not be in the best interest of safety.’ ”

CNBC: “Boeing engineers raised concerns about 737 Max before crashes, documents show” — “A Boeing engineer was concerned that the troubled 737 Max, years before it came to market, had a flight-control system that lacked sufficient safeguards, according to a document released Wednesday during a hearing in the House where lawmakers questioned the manufacturer’s CEO after two fatal crashes of the jetliners.

“In 2015, more than a year before the planes were certified by federal regulators, a Boeing engineer asked whether a flight-control system that was involved in both deadly crashes was safe because it relied on a single sensor.

“Regulators around the world banned airlines from flying the planes after the crashes. Boeing has changed the planes’ system so that they rely on two sensors instead of one. But regulators have not yet signed off on that and other changes the company has made to the planes, leaving them grounded for nearly eight months, which has crimped airline profits.”

Yahoo! Finance: “What Boeing’s CEO says may be used against it in the court of law, public opinion” — “Largely characterized as political theater, Congressional hearings currently underway still pose risks for Boeing (BA) — and its embattled CEO Dennis Mulienburg as the company tries to fend off civil litigation from passengers, customers and pilots.

“The aerospace giant has been under pressure from all sides since two fatal crashes of the company’s flagship 737 Max jet. Amid ongoing probes of the two disasters, an investigation by the Department of Justice and growing questions about Boeing’s relationship with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), experts say Muilenberg’s words to Congress could easily come back to haunt the company.

“‘The potential liability to Boeing is crushing, and what he says are potential admissions that can be used in litigation,’ Arthur Rosenberg, an aviation attorney who is representing families whose relatives died in the Ethiopian Airlines and Lion Air crashes, told Yahoo Finance.”

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

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