Boeing failed to promptly report to regulators a 2016 communication record between two of its employees, the FAA said on October 18, Xinhua reported. The record shows that the duo had known for a long time that there was a serious problem with the flight control system of Boeing’s 737MAX family of aircraft, and chose to hide the situation.
The FAA, which is part of the U.S. Department of Transportation, said in a statement on the 18th that Boeing only notified the Department of the existence of the communication record on the evening of the 17th and said it had discovered the record file several months ago. The Department of Transportation immediately notified the FAA and the DOT Inspector General of the situation.
Several media in the United States disclosed the company’s internal communication records. Mark Faulkner, Boeing’s chief technical pilot at the time, texted a colleague after taking part in a simulator test of the 737 MAX plane, saying the system “lost control” and that it performed “excessively.” In the disclosed information, Faulkner also said, “I lied (unintentionally) to the regulator.”
The FAA called the content of the conversation “concerning” and expressed disappointment at Boeing’s delay in reporting the situation, and the agency is still evaluating the information to decide what action to take. FAA Administrator Stephen Dixon has sent a letter asking Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg for an explanation.
On March 10 this year, an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737-8 (belonging to the 737MAX series) crashed. This is the second crash of a Boeing 737-8 after the crash of the same model of Lion Air in Indonesia on October 29 last year. Both crashes were related to the incorrect activation of the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) automatic anti-stall software.
On October 11, a joint group of international aviation safety regulators issued a report saying that the FAA’s ability to evaluate Boeing 737MAX series aircraft is insufficient, and the evaluation process has shortcomings such as “fragmentation” and “non-communication between teams”. The FAA has also “outsourced” some of its regulatory responsibilities to Boeing, allowing Boeing to certify the safety of its own airliners.
The report argues that if FAA technicians had fully understood the Maneuvering Characteristics Enhancement System, the crash could have been avoided.