SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao requested an audit in a memo to the department’s Inspector General Calvin Scovel on Tuesday in a call to review Boeing’s 737 MAX jets.
The audit follows demands from federal authorities that the Federal Aviation Administration and Boeing keep all documents related to the troubled jet.
U.S. federal authorities had already been conducting a criminal investigation into how the 737 MAX was certified to fly passengers before the latest crash in Ethiopia that killed all 157 people on board. In October, Lion Air Flight 610 killed 189 people in Indonesia.
The planes’ new flight-control software is suspected of playing a role in those two fatal crashes, which were just five months apart.
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“One of the things the documents will be analyzed for–was everything done by the book? Were there any shortcuts taken to speed the process along?” said aviation expert Reed Yadon.
Congressman Steve Cohen wants hearings on the safety approval process, which he worries has gotten too cozy.
After 9/11, Congress approved a system that gave manufacturers like Boeing more authority to self-certify the safety of the plane. The new software system did not raise warnings during that process.
“I think this was a mistake we made, and I think we’re learning from it–but unfortunately, 250 people in the world have died because of that, I think,” said Cohen (D-Tennessee).
In 2012, the Department of Transportation’s Inspector General found that Boeing engineers had too much sway over safety approvals for new aircrafts, and that “managers have not always supported…employee efforts to hold Boeing accountable.”
The family of 737 MAX planes is now grounded as Boeing races to come up with a fix to the software.
“It’s kind of scary if they’re cutting corners to get planes in the sky, and putting people’s lives at risk, so personally, I don’t appreciate that, but I still gotta fly,” said flier Akeem Maynard of Oakland.
Boeing’s CEO Dennis Muilenburg released a video message to speak publicly for the first time since Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crashed last week.
“Our entire team stands behind the quality and safety of the aircraft we design, produce and support,” he said.
Muilenburg said the company is taking actions to ensure the safety of its 737 MAX jets in the wake of the two crashes. Boeing will also offer related pilot training for the 737 MAX to “address concerns” that arose in the aftermath of October’s Lion Air crash.
On Tuesday, President Trump nominated a former Delta Airlines executive to lead the FAA. The agency has been without a permanent chief for more than a year.