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Watchdog highlights 'weaknesses' in FAA certification of Boeing 737 MAX

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A Boeing 737 MAX 7 aircraft lands during an evaluation flight at Boeing Field in Seattle, Washington, US September 30, 2020. (Reuters photo)

A new report by a US government watchdog shows “weaknesses” in certification of the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft that was grounded for 20 months following two deadly crashes.

In a 63-page report on Wednesday, the US Transportation Department’s inspector general said the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) failed to have a complete understanding of a Boeing Co. safety system tied to both crashes that killed 346 people.

The report highlights failures that resulted in the FAA to miss the flaws in the MAX’s new flight control system during certification of the jet in 2015 and 2016.

“Much work remains to address weaknesses in FAA’s certification guidance and processes,” the report said, citing “management and oversight weaknesses.”

The report makes 14 specific recommendations which it says are “vital to restore confidence.”

Crashes of two, nearly new Max airplanes less than five months apart, in 2018 and 2019, prompted a worldwide grounding of the aircrafts and reviews of development and certification flaws.

The FAA lifted its ban of the jetliners, Boeing’s best-selling aircraft, in November.

Meanwhile, Boeing said it has “undertaken significant changes to reinforce our safety practices, and we have already made progress” on recommendations outlined in the report.

It was the second report by the inspector general’s office into the fatal crashes. The first which was issued in June showed that Boeing had failed to submit documents to the FAA.

That report also showed how the FAA missed critical flaws in the design of the MAX’s Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), the new flight control software that repeatedly activated and pushed down the nose of the aircraft in both crashes.

US Congress, in December, passed a law reforming how the FAA certifies airplanes, especially the practice of delegating some certification tasks to manufacturers.

In the US House, Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), chair of the Committee on Transportation, said he was “seriously concerned that Boeing was able to put a fatally flawed aircraft into service under FAA’s certification process.”

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said the new report “adds evidence — and an exclamation point — to findings of Boeing’s shameful concealment and the FAA’s negligence.”

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