FAA decisions on Boeing safety issues queried

Representatives Peter DeFazio (pictured) and Rick Larsen said in a letter to FAA Administrator Steve Dickson that FAA management ultimately overruled the technical specialists after Boeing objected.
Representatives Peter DeFazio (pictured) and Rick Larsen said in a letter to FAA Administrator Steve Dickson that FAA management ultimately overruled the technical specialists after Boeing objected.PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON • Two Democratic Party lawmakers in the US have said that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) overruled agency technical specialists on two Boeing safety issues involving the 737 Max and the 787 Dreamliner jets that they said could be "potentially catastrophic".

The safety issues involve the 737 Max rudder cable, and lightning protection for fuel tanks on the 787 Dreamliner.

Representative Peter DeFazio, who chairs the House of Representatives transportation and infrastructure committee, and Representative Rick Larsen, who chairs the aviation subcommittee, said in a letter to FAA administrator Steve Dickson that FAA management ultimately overruled the technical specialists after Boeing objected.

That action raises "questions about how the agency weighs the validity of safety issues raised by its own experts compared to objections raised by the aircraft manufacturers the FAA is supposed to oversee", the lawmakers said in the letter on Thursday. The lawmakers, who have been probing two deadly 737 Max crashes, demanded a list of detailed answers from the FAA by Nov 21.

Boeing spokesman Gordon Johndroe said it is aware of both issues and "confident that each was properly considered and addressed by Boeing, thoroughly reviewed with and approved by the FAA, and handled in full compliance with the processes governing review and disposition of such issues".

An FAA spokesman said the agency would respond directly to the lawmakers.

The letter said the committee had information and documents "suggesting Boeing implemented a design change on its 787 Dreamliner lightning protection features to which multiple FAA specialists ultimately objected".It also said Boeing objected to making design changes to the 737 Max rudder cable, arguing they "would be impractical" and noting the company's concern about the potential impact on "resources and programme schedules".

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 09, 2019, with the headline 'FAA decisions on Boeing safety issues queried'. Print Edition | Subscribe