Key lawmakers reacted harshly to Boeing Co.’s release of damning internal communications related to its troubled 737 Max with vows to rein in the authority Congress granted the planemaker to oversee some of its work.
“We’re not anywhere near done with this investigation, but I think we’re going to be legislating before we’re done,” House Transportation Committee Chairman Pete DeFazio told reporters Friday in Washington.
Boeing employees discussed deep unease with the 737 Max and the flight simulators used to train pilots on the new jetliner while also mocking senior managers and regulators in a trove of messages released by the manufacturer late Thursday.
“This airplane is designed by clowns, who in turn are supervised by monkeys,” said one company pilot in messages to a colleague in 2016. The company provided the documents in December to the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and lawmakers, who are investigating the 737 Max and the process that cleared it to fly.
The internal communications threaten to upend Boeing’s efforts to rebuild public trust in the 737 Max, which has been grounded since March after two crashes that killed a total of 346 people. That will add to the hurdles for David Calhoun, a longtime board member who will take over on Jan. 13 as chief executive officer after Dennis Muilenburg was ousted last month.
DeFazio said one of the documents released Thursday showed a Boeing employee designated to act in behalf of the FAA approved a Boeing plan to keep references to the flight control system linked to the two fatal crashes, known as MCAS, out of 737 Max materials.
“We have here deliberate concealment over a number of years leading to two fatal crashes,” DeFazio said.
Lawmakers in 2012 overwhelmingly passed and President Barack Obama signed a three-year reauthorization of the FAA’s authority in 2012 that ordered sweeping changes to streamline the agency’s aircraft certification process. It specifically instructed the FAA administrator to consider how to expand the use of “designees,” or company employees deputized with the power to certify the safety of broad swaths of new planes and components on the agency’s behalf.
Rep. Rick Larsen, a Democrat who is chairman of the panel’s aviation subcommittee, said Boeing doesn’t need to lose all its authority under the designee program — but will lose some.
“We need to be very particular and scalpel like in how we address this, but we have to address the problem,” Larsen said. “In my view, some of this needs to be pulled back from Boeing” and given to FAA.