WASHINGTON. — Boeing fell short of disclosing changes to a key flight control system, which faulted in two fatal crashes, to the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), thus the FAA was not well positioned to mitigate any risks, according to a government report made public on Wednesday.
The report, from the US Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General, revealed mistakes made by both the planemaker and the FAA in the development and certification of Boeing’s top-selling aircraft 737 MAX.
The FAA followed its established certification process for the 737 MAX 8, which began in early 2012 when Boeing submitted its initial application for an amended type certificate (ATC).
Early in the process, Boeing included limited information in initial briefings to the FAA on the MAX’s flight control software, known as the Manoeuvring Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), which subsequently has been cited as a contributing or potentially contributing factor in both accidents, said the report dated June 29.
The MCAS was not an area of emphasis in FAA’s certification efforts and therefore did not receive a more detailed review or discussion between FAA engineers and Boeing, according to the report.
“As a result, FAA was not well positioned to mitigate any risks related to MCAS,” said the report.
From 2012 to 2014, Boeing and the FAA collaborated to develop and implement an overall certification plan, including determining which aspects of the certification process would be delegated to the Organisation Designation Authorisation (ODA) of Boeing.
Boeing modified the MCAS as a result of flight testing, including significantly increasing MCAS’s ability to lower the aircraft’s nose automatically under certain conditions throughout 2015 and 2016.
However, Boeing did not submit certification documents to the FAA detailing the change, according to the report.
In March 2017, the FAA issued an ATC to Boeing for the 737 MAX 8, which began flying passengers later that year.
The FAA is in charge of overseeing the safety and certification of all civilian aircraft manufactured and operated in the United States.
“The tragic accidents in 2018 and 2019 involving the Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft have raised important questions about FAA’s certification process, including its oversight of the ODA program,” said the report.
The accidents, including FAA’s response following the Lion Air crash, have also drawn attention to the agency’s processes for determining certification basis, assessing pilot training needs, and conducting risk analyses, said the report.
On October 29, 2018, Indonesia’s Lion Air Flight 610 crashed, resulting in 189 fatalities. The 737 Max 8 plane was bound for Pangkal Pinang, an island chain off Sumatra.
On March 10, 2019, Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crashed shortly after departing Addis Ababa Bole International Airport, a second crash involving a 737 MAX, killing 157 people on board. — Xinhua.