Boeing Safety Failures Scrutinized in Senate Hearing

Senate grills Boeing over 737 Max crashes, exposing safety flaws and industry capture of regulators. Calls for accountability and reforms to prevent future tragedies.

Geeta Pillai
New Update
Boeing Safety Failures Scrutinized in Senate Hearing

Boeing Safety Failures Scrutinized in Senate Hearing

On Tuesday, the Senate Commerce Committee held a hearing to examine the safety failures at Boeing that led to two deadly crashes of the company's 737 Max aircraft in 2018 and 2019. The crashes, which occurred just five months apart, killed a total of 346 people and led to a worldwide grounding of the 737 Max that lasted nearly two years.

During the hearing, senators questioned Boeing executives and government regulators about the design, development, and certification of the 737 Max. They focused on the role played by a new automated flight control system known as MCAS, which was designed to prevent the plane from stalling but instead repeatedly forced the nose of the plane down, overpowering the pilots .

Senators expressed frustration and anger over Boeing's failure to properly assess the risks of MCAS during the plane's development. They also criticized the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for lax oversight and for delegating too much of the certification process to Boeing itself.

Why this matters: The 737 Max crashes exposed serious flaws in the aircraft certification process and raised questions about the safety culture at Boeing . The Senate hearing is part of ongoing efforts to hold Boeing and regulators accountable and to prevent similar tragedies from occurring in the future.

Boeing CEO David Calhoun acknowledged the company's mistakes and apologized to the families of the crash victims. "On behalf of myself and the Boeing company, we are sorry, deeply and truly sorry," Calhoun said. He pledged that Boeing has learned from the crashes and has implemented changes to improve safety and rebuild trust.

However, some senators remained skeptical. "Boeing has said it's learned lessons, but the evidence that we've seen shows that Boeing has not changed its practices," said Senator Maria Cantwell, chair of the Commerce Committee.

The hearing also featured testimony from Michael Stumo, whose daughter Samya was killed in the second 737 Max crash in Ethiopia. Stumo called for stronger oversight of Boeing and the FAA, saying "The system is broken. The FAA is captured by industry."

The 737 Max was cleared to fly again in late 2020 after Boeing made changes to MCAS and pilot training. However, the plane has faced additional scrutiny and delays due to other safety concerns. In April 2021, the FAA ordered Boeing to fix an electrical issue that grounded over 100 Max planes.

The Senate hearing, which lasted over three hours, covered a wide range of issues related to the 737 Max crashes and their aftermath. Senators pressed Boeing and FAA officials on why MCAS was not mentioned in the plane's pilot manual, how the system was certified, and what steps have been taken to prevent future accidents. They also discussed the need for greater transparency, accountability, and safety improvements in the aviation industry.

Key Takeaways

  • Senate hearing examined Boeing's safety failures leading to 737 Max crashes.
  • Senators criticized Boeing's MCAS design and FAA's lax oversight in certification.
  • Boeing CEO apologized, but senators remained skeptical of the company's changes.
  • Testimony called for stronger oversight of Boeing and the FAA.
  • 737 Max faced additional scrutiny and delays due to ongoing safety concerns.