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September 16, 2020

Two tragic accidents involving the 737 Max in 2018 and 2019 were partly due to the reticence of Boeing's top management to share technical details of their aircraft and to a lack of vigilance by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

This was established by a US Congress investigation lasting 18 months.

In a report of nearly 250 pages, the Transport Committee of the Democratic-majority Chamber lists a series of incorrect actions in the realization of the model by the American giant and calls into question what it defines as the "culture of concealment" and a system regulation that was "fundamentally flawed".

The report is a severe blow for Boeing, which in December 2019 Boeing announced the suspension of production of all variants of the 737 Max starting from January 2020, but which later announced its willingness to resume it and reach 31 copies per month by 2021. Boeing admitted that it had "learned very hard lessons" from the incidents of Lion Air Flight 610 (October 29, 2018) and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 (March 10, 2019) in which 189 and 157 people.

The families of the victims, however, accused the company and the competent agency of the Department of Transport of continuing to hide information.

"Boeing failed in the design and development of the 737 Max and the FAA, the Federal Aviation Administration failed in the supervision of Boeing and in the certification of the aircraft," the report reads, which shows that the accidents "were not the result of a single failure, technical error or a badly managed event ".

Indeed, according to the commission's report, the incidents "were the horrendous culmination of a series of erroneous technical assumptions by Boeing engineers, a lack of transparency from Boeing management and grossly insufficient oversight by the FAA. ".

The Boeing 737 Max has been grounded since March 2019 after two accidents, in Indonesia and Ethiopia, left 346 people dead.

The report found a number of gaps in the aircraft design, coupled with "Regulatory capture", a too close relationship between Boeing and the federal authority, which compromised the process to obtain safety certification. .

The detailed analysis of the House Transportation Committee is the result of dozens of interrogations and interviews and is based on over 600,000 pages of documents.

It turns out that Boeing employees were under pressure because they wanted to sell the new planes quickly without requiring their pilots to undergo a more extensive retraining.

The goal was symbolized by the "countdown clocks" hanging on the wall of a conference room.

The report describes Boeing officials as "extraordinarily reluctant to acknowledge any missteps or mistakes."

Tests on the software found to be faulty on the Max 737s showed that it took a pilot more than 10 seconds to realize what was happening and then follow the correct procedures to neutralize the command that sent the plane into a dive, with catastrophic consequences, a element hidden from the control authorities.

In addition, the alarm that led to the activation of the anti-stall system was found to be out of order on a large part of the 737 Max fleet but this was never communicated to pilots and companions The 737 Max has still been grounded by now more than a year and a half but could be authorized to fly again in the next few months, thanks to the revision of the MCAS software.

In this sense, last Monday there was a meeting of international regulators in Gatwick to examine the training requirements for the Max pilots.