Allowing unfit planes to fly

By | Category: Travel rumblings

Amongst the news of rising coronavirus figures, a small but important story for travellers might have been overlooked by some.

737-MAX 8 Artwork. Image © Boeing

This is the news that the US Senate has published a 102 page document about the Boeing 737 Max.

No, this isn’t a report into how mistakes and shoddy oversight were connected to the development of the Max.

This is about how Boeing and the FAA (Federal Aviation Authority) – the regulator for airlines in the USA – responded after the problems were found.

The report has found that Boeing “inappropriately influenced FAA human factor simulator testing of pilot reaction times” and that the FAA was culpable in that it turned a blind eye to any number of incidents.

In all the report listed six areas of concern of which the most serious is that the FAA “repeatedly permitted Southwest Airlines to continue operating dozens of aircraft in an unknown airworthiness condition for several years. These flights put millions of passengers at potential risk.”

What is worrying for passengers is that this shows Boeing and the FAA didn’t hold their hands up after the two planes crashed but tried to sweep some of the problems under the carpet.

That the FAA allowed unfit aircraft to fly not just once but for years is not just disquietening but horrendous. This surely demands a culling of senior staff at the organisation. Tust needs to be restored.

How do we know that the FAA and Boeing are still working for their benefit and not for passengers? How do we know that the Max – which has been certified by the FAA to fly again is really safe for passengers?  

The FAA is probably the lead regulator in the world. How can other regulators now trust what it says? How do we know that the “sweep it under the carpet” and attacks on whistle blowers isn’t still continuing?

The Senate investigation was under way for twenty months yet there is frustration in the document that the FAA was slow to respond, that half of the documents requested still hadn’t been provided at time of publication and that of the 21 people the enquiry requested to appear, less than half were allowed to appear.

In previous stories about this issue, Just about Travel, wondered whether the flying public would be happy to fly in a Max again. Now the question is whether the airlines, regulators and the passenger flying public around the world should trust anything the FAA does. At least there are regulators in other countries. Hopefully they aren’t acting as the FAA has been doing

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