A series of Seattle Times stories revealing crucial flaws in the process that led to the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) certification of Boeing’s 737 MAX was honored Wednesday with the George Polk Award for Business Reporting.
The prestigious award, one of 15 bestowed on a range of national and regional media in different categories, was announced at the National Press Club.
The judges recognized the work of reporters Dominic Gates, Mike Baker, Steve Miletich and Lewis Kamb of The Seattle Times for “first exposing the cooperative arrangements between Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration that led to approval of design changes in 737 MAX jets blamed for two crashes, killing 346.”
The team, led by veteran Seattle Times aerospace beat reporter Gates, published its first investigative story the weekend after the second MAX crash. The Seattle Times was the first to reveal how Boeing misinformed the FAA and airlines about key features of the plane’s automated flight control system, MCAS, and how the FAA missed problems with that fatally flawed system because it relied too heavily on Boeing’s safety analysis. Subsequent stories documented how engineers and analysts at both organizations were pressured to speed the approval process and to avoid changes that would add costs; how a Boeing whistleblower complained that the company had rejected suggested safety upgrades during the plane’s development; and how the company convinced the FAA to relax the safety standards for the new 737 MAX related to cockpit alerts that would warn pilots if something went wrong during flight.
The five key stories, part of a yearlong effort that included more than 150 staff articles and continues today, can be found at st.news/SeattleTimesMAX.