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Senators accuse FAA chief of ‘stonewalling’ MAX probe

written by Sandy Milne | June 18, 2020

The FAA’s handling of the 737 MAX crisis has come under fire at a US Senate hearing held Wednesday, with one member accusing the agency of “stonewalling” the investigation.

“Your team at the FAA has attempted deliberately to keep us in the dark,” another representative told FAA chief Stephen Dickson.

On his part, Dickson largely rebuffed claims that his agency had been lax in its investigation of the grounded plane, stating it remains “totally committed to the oversight process”.

“I believe it is inaccurate to portray the agency as unresponsive,” Dickson said, pointing to its co-operation in multiple investigations. “There is still ongoing work.”

Dickson did, however, admit that mistakes were made by both Boeing and the FAA, sparking a heated exchanged with Republican senator Ted Cruz.

“So unknown somebodies made unspecified mistakes for which there were no repercussions,” Senator Cruz said. “What mistakes were made and who made them?”

Unsurprisingly, Dickson pointed to Boeing’s development and implementation of the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), which has been a key focus of Boeing’s redesign process. Investigations into both crashes of the 737 MAX showed that the MCAS repeatedly pushed down the jet’s nose, as pilots struggled to regain control.

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Dickson reiterated that he remains the “final sign-off authority in the US”, and said that he is “not going to sign off on the aircraft until I fly it myself”, a point he first went public with late last year.

The hearing comes just one day after the passage of the Aircraft Safety and Certification Reform Act, which would expand the FAA’s powers to hire and/or remove Boeing employees involved with certification tasks. The legislation also provides added protections to potential whistleblowers within the company.

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