Families of crash passengers want wider review of Boeing Max

The Max remains grounded after two deadly crashes

FILE - In this Oct. 29, 2019 file photo, Boeing Company President and Chief Executive Officer Dennis Muilenburg, right foreground, watches as family members hold up photographs of those killed in the Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 and Lion Air Flight 610 crashes during a Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation hearing on Capitol Hill. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

FILE - In this Oct. 29, 2019 file photo, Boeing Company President and Chief Executive Officer Dennis Muilenburg, right foreground, watches as family members hold up photographs of those killed in the Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 and Lion Air Flight 610 crashes during a Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation hearing on Capitol Hill. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

The head of the Federal Aviation Administration will face questions about whether the agency is too cozy with Boeing when he testifies this week before a congressional panel.

The chairman of the House Transportation Committee says he plans to ask FAA Administrator Stephen Dickson about Boeing’s influence over the FAA’s Seattle office and incidents in which FAA managers vetoed the concerns of the agency’s own safety experts.

“We are having a hard time piercing the veil of how consistently and repeatedly Boeing is managing to pressure and overcome the objectives of the safety specialists,” committee Chairman Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., said Monday in an interview.

Dickson is scheduled to testify at a hearing Wednesday, just as the FAA gears up to review changes Boeing is making in its 737 Max jet. The Max remains grounded after two deadly crashes.

READ MORE: Boeing replaces executive who oversaw 737 Max, other planes

Investigations into the crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia point to a flight-control system called MCAS that automatically pushed the noses of the planes down in response to faulty readings from a sensor. Boeing is making MCAS less powerful and tying it to a second sensor. It is also proposing material for training pilots about MCAS, and fixing a separate issue around flight-control computers. The company hopes airlines can resume using the Max early next year.

Relatives of passengers who died in the second crash say FAA is focusing too narrowly on Boeing’s revamp of a flight-control system implicated in both accidents. They want a nose-to-tail review of every key system on the plane before the grounded planes can fly again.

“That’s a tombstone mentality” to focus only on MCAS, said Nadia Milleron, whose daughter died in the March 10 crash of an Ethiopian Airlines Max. “You don’t just wait until people die to address (other) systems.”

Chris Moore, whose daughter died in the Ethiopian crash, sent a list of questions that he hopes lawmakers will ask Dickson, including why the FAA didn’t ground the Max after the first crash, when a Lion Air Max plunged into the sea off the coast of Indonesia in October 2018.

About a dozen family members plan to attend Wednesday’s hearing. They are driven by a deep distrust of Boeing, and a few have delved into the details of aircraft manufacturing.

READ MORE: Boeing, FAA both faulted in certification of the 737 Max

When Boeing’s chief engineer told Congress that the company did not test what would happen if a single sensor tied to MCAS failed, family members and other critics seized on the disclosure to raise questions about Boeing’s analysis of other key systems on the plane.

Boeing employees conducted those assessments under a decades-old FAA policy — strengthened in 2005 — of relying on the technical knowledge of the companies that it regulates. FAA inspectors are supposed to oversee the work of those company employees, but published reports suggest that the agency knew little about MCAS when it certified the Max.

DeFazio said Monday that the FAA program of relying on aircraft company employees “obviously needs significant improvement,” but he hasn’t settled on how to do that. “I’m hoping Dickson can volunteer some ideas,” he said.

Dickson, a former Delta Air Lines pilot and executive, will be testifying about the Max for the first time since he became FAA administrator in August.

During previous hearings, lawmakers have accused FAA of favouring Boeing and overruling FAA experts in two other cases. One involved the placement of rudder cables on the Max that, in the view of FAA engineers, could make them vulnerable to being severed if an engine blew apart in flight.

The committee also plans to hear from several other witnesses, including Ed Pierson, a former Boeing production manager who protested a push to increase production of the Max. In an email to another Boeing executive in June 2018, which the committee made public in October, Pierson said he was hesitant to put his own family on a Boeing plane.

David Koenig, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A project on McCallum Road will add 227 residential units to Langford. (Photo courtesy of Highstreet Ventures)
Residential project slated for McCallum Road in Langford

Six-storey development will be built to highest energy-efficiency standards

Volunteer Anette Akouri is part of a vital service that connects clients to help them be less vulernable. (Saanich Volunteer Services Society)
Saanich volunteers up the friendship calls, grocery deliveries during pandemic

Saanich Volunteer Services Society helping vulnerable residents stay happy, healthy

Island Health has reported a COVID-19 outbreak at Saanich Peninsula Hospital. (Arnold Lim/Black Press)
Four new COVID-19 cases added to Saanich Peninsula Hospital outbreak

Inital round of patient testing is complete, staff testing continues

The public will start to weigh in next month on the possible future uses of Oak Bay Lodge. In the meantime, a request to the province by the City of Victoria to intervene and allow use of at least a portion of the closed facility as temporary shelter space awaits an answer. (Black Press Media file photo)
Oak Bay Lodge redevelopment planning continues, request for temporary use awaits answer

Public consultation on future of CRD-owned site begins next month

Motorists wait to enter a Fraser Health COVID-19 testing facility, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, Nov. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Another 694 diagnosed with COVID-19 in B.C. Thursday

Three more health care outbreaks, 12 deaths

(AP Photo/Paula Bronstein)
POLL: Has COVID-19 changed your plans for the holidays?

The lights are going up, the stacks of presents under the tree… Continue reading

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Dec. 1

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Lake Trail Middle School in Courtenay has closed again due to a threat Friday (Dec 4). File photo
Island middle school closed for the second time in a week due to threat

On Nov. 26, Lake Trail Middle School was closed for a day while a similar incident occurred.

Melissa David, of Parachutes for Pets and her dogs Hudson and Charlie are trying to raise money for a homeless shelter that will allow pets and are seen in Calgary, Alta., Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘My only wish:’ Children asking pet charity to help their furry friends at Christmas

Parachutes for Pets says it has received 14 letters from children in the last week t

Melissa Velden and her chef-husband Chris Velden, stand in their dining room at the Flying Apron Inn and Cookery in Summerville, N.S. on Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. The couple is hosting holiday parties with appropriate distancing and other COVID-19 health protocols in place at their restaurant. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Celebrities, Santa and Zoom part of office holiday parties being held amid COVID-19

Many will send tokens of appreciation to workers or offer time off or cash

Watch Messiah at home with the Sooke Philharmonic

Concert available to stream Dec. 12

Emergency crews used a backhoe loader to clear fire debris from the scene of a fire on Wesley Street Thursday as police and firefighters gathered up propane tanks, stoves and fireplaces used by camp residents to heat tents. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
City of Nanaimo dismantles downtown homeless encampment after fire

Four to six tents burned up in Wesley Street fire Thursday, Dec. 3

Most Read