Politics & Elections

Status of the Boeing 737 MAX: Stakeholder Perspectives

House Aviation Subcommittee Chair Larsen opening statement at Aviation Subcommittee Hearing on June 19, 2019

Good morning and I want to thank today’s witnesses for joining the Subcommittee’s ongoing discussion on the “Status of the Boeing 737 MAX.”

Today’s hearing is the second in a series investigating the tragic Boeing 737 MAX accidents.

The purpose of today’s hearing is to hear from the people who fly the airplanes and from the people who fly in the airplanes and those who represent them. 

A total of 346 people died in the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines accidents and their loved ones deserve answers.

The traveling public’s confidence in the U.S. aviation is shaken. Congress, the administration and industry must restore confidence in air travel. 

The foundation of this Committee’s investigation into the Boeing 737 MAX is ensuring safety.

As I have said before, if the public does not feel safe about flying then they won’t fly; if they don’t fly, airlines don’t need to buy airplanes; if they don’t need to buy airplanes, then airplanes don’t need to be built; and if there is no need to build airplanes, then there will be no jobs in aviation.

The foundation of the aviation industry is its safety.

Today’s hearing builds on the Committee’s ongoing investigation.

Safety will remain this Committee’s guiding principle. This Committee will use all tools to reduce the likelihood of future tragedies.

I want to start by updating the Subcommittee Members and the public on the Committee’s work since last month’s hearing.

Chair DeFazio and I continue to engage with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), Boeing, pilots, aviation stakeholders and others about these accidents.

Second, the Committee’s oversight and investigations team continues to work with the FAA and Boeing on securing records the Chair and I requested on the certification of the MAX.

More recently, Chair DeFazio and I recently wrote to Transportation Secretary Chao and FAA Acting Administrator Elwell expressing concerns about the slow pace of the FAA’s response to our records request. It is my expectation that both will cooperate with the Committee’s investigation in a timely manner.

Third, we have written to Boeing, United Technologies Corporation and the FAA requesting a timeline and supporting documents related to the awareness of when the Angle of Attack (AOA) Disagree alert on some Boeing 737 MAX planes was defective, as well as when the groups notified airlines about this defect.

The Committee is aware of information suggesting that Boeing decided in November 2017 to defer a software update to correct the AOA Disagree alert defect until 2020, three years after discovering the flaw, and only accelerated its timeline after the October 2018 Lion Air accident.

This information is deeply concerning, and the Committee must find out what Boeing knew, when the company knew it and who it informed.

I also have questions about the decision to not deem the AOA Disagree alert as safety critical. The information the Committee is requesting will help us better understand management decisions.

I encourage all Members of the Subcommittee to continue personally monitoring this situation.

Staff continues to be available for any questions you may have surrounding our investigation and can provide you with updates as they become available.

What I hope to hear today from witnesses:

More than 300 Boeing 737 MAX planes have been grounded worldwide since the Ethiopian Airlines accident in March and more than 130 are parked. More than 4,500 orders for the MAX worldwide remain unfilled since Boeing stopped delivery, and that is over a longer period of time.

Today’s hearing is an opportunity to gather views and perspectives from key users of the aircraft, pilots, flight attendants, the industry and those representing passengers’ views on what the FAA, Boeing and airlines need to do before returning the 737 MAX to service.

This Committee is not here to make conclusions as to what caused these accidents, that is the NTSB’s job.

But, as with any aviation accident, investigators must consider a multitude of factors, including aircraft design, aircraft maintenance, weather and human performance before making a final determination of probable cause or causes.

In the end, there will be a root cause and there will be contributing factors.

Nevertheless, it is critical the public hear from frontline stakeholders as part of our oversight work.

Captain Carey and Captain Sullenberger, I look forward to hearing the pilot’s perspective on these accidents, pilots’ role in the FAA’s certification process and associated pilot training.

Ms. Nelson, flight attendants are on the frontlines with passengers, and I am interested in hearing your thoughts on what must take place to restore the confidence of the flying public and help you perform your important work.

Ms. Pinkerton, I would like to hear more about the impact of the grounding on airlines, airlines’ engagement with the FAA and Boeing on certification of the aircraft and related “fixes” and next steps to ensure safety.

Mr. Babbitt, as a former FAA Administrator, I look forward to your thoughts on the importance of coordination of the international aviation community on this issue and how the FAA can regain its credibility and restore the public’s trust.

I hope today’s testimony will help this Committee better understand what is needed to restore the trust of the flying public and show this Committee’s commitment to safety by asking all the appropriate questions.

As Congress seeks answers surrounding the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines accidents, this Committee must also work to restore public confidence in the MAX and the FAA’s mission importantly to maintain the safety of U.S. aviation and aerospace.

The Committee will continue its thorough investigation until it fully understands all the issues surrounding the 737 MAX accidents.

I will continue to work with Chair DeFazio and my colleagues, Representative Graves and Representative Graves, the FAA, NTSB, Boeing, aviation stakeholders and families of victims throughout this process.

Again, I want to thank today’s witnesses and I look forward to hearing your insights.

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