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Congressional Committee Slams Boeing Over 737 MAX

By Lou Whiteman - Updated Mar 6, 2020 at 4:25PM

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The aerospace giant cut corners to get the plane out quickly and on budget, according to a new report.

Boeing's (BA -1.52%) "culture of concealment" and financial pressure to rush the 737 MAX to market helped contribute to the fatal flaws in the airliner's Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, according to a new report out Friday from a House committee charged with investigating the plane's troubles and eventual grounding.

The House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure's preliminary report on the Boeing 737 MAX found that the company's need to bring the plane to market to compete with Airbus' A320neo in a timely fashion and at a competitive price "jeopardized the safety of the flying public."

The investigation also found several instances where it says Boeing withheld "crucial information" from the Federal Aviation Administration, pilots, and airlines.

The 737 MAX flies above the clouds.

A Boeing 737 MAX in flight. Image source: Boeing.

It's been almost a year since the March 10, 2019, crash of an Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX that killed all on board and prompted regulators to pull the plane out of service. Boeing has been working with regulators on fixes with the hope of returning the plane to service by the second half of this year.

The House report was also critical of the FAA approval process. It specifically cited examples "where FAA management overruled the determination of the FAA's own technical experts at the behest of Boeing," and called for an overhaul of how the agency regulates aircraft manufacturers and certifies planes that are airworthy.

"The committee has found that the FAA's current oversight structure with respect to Boeing creates inherent conflicts of interest that have jeopardized the safety of the flying public," the report said.

While the report is mostly backward-looking and shouldn't jeopardize the effort to return the 737 MAX to service, the added scrutiny on Boeing and the FAA could lead to the process taking longer than the company currently expects.

Boeing in December ousted CEO Dennis Muilenburg. Since then, Dave Calhoun, his replacement, has been leading efforts to overhaul the company's internal processes and improve its standing with the public and lawmakers.

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