The United States’ Federal Aviation Authority has come under fire over its relationship with Boeing amid safety concerns over 737 MAX 8 planes.
The planes have been involved in two catastrophic crashes within six months. An Ethiopian Airlines crash that killed 157 people, including 18 Canadians, and a Lion Air crash that killed 189 people in October.
Adding to the controversy is a recent report from The Seattle Times newspaper, which says that the FAA delegated government-required safety inspections to Boeing employees themselves.
And the resulting safety report from Boeing, according to the news outlet, contained “several crucial flaws.”
The report understated the power of the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) flight control system. According to the Times, the report also failed to account for the fact that the system could reset each time a pilot attempted to respond.
The analysis also said a failure of the system would be “hazardous,” not “catastrophic” — but the newspaper notes that even a hazardous danger level should have resulted in more caution from the manufacturer.
The Seattle Times was able to get details of the safety analysis from FAA employees, who spoke anonymously.
WATCH: FAA delegated some safety assessments of 737 MAX to Boeing, Seattle Times report says
The newspaper noted that these details were learned before the Ethiopian airplane crash and that both the FAA and Boeing were asked for responses 11 days before the deadly incident.
Beyond the Times, others have also raised similar concerns.
Todd Curtis, a former Boeing Co. safety engineer and creator of airsafe.com, a website that focuses on airline safety, is among those concerned about the FAA’s safety screening process.
WATCH: FAA being investigated over approval of Boeing 737 Max 8 in wake of two crashes, report says
Curtis says there’s a potential “conflict of interest” when company employees do work for an agency charged with keeping the skies safe — while being paid by an industry that the FAA is regulating.
“They (the FAA) don’t have the money to do all of the oversight. It’s a question of being practical,” he told The Associated Press.
Response from FAA, Boeing
The FAA concedes that it doesn’t have resources to keep up with a growing aviation industry, and experts say it lacks the personnel to inspect every component, especially those made in other countries.
But the agency says the so-called designee program’s results speak for themselves. The U.S. has the safest skies in the world. Until April of last year, U.S. passenger airlines had not had a fatality since 2009, while carrying several billion passengers.
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Boeing has also pushed back on criticisms over its safety analysis.
A Boeing spokesman said company employees get regular training and oversight from the FAA.
“The long-standing collaborative engagement between the Federal Aviation Administration, Boeing, its customers and industry partners has created the safest transportation system in the world,” Boeing spokesman Daniel Curran said in an email.
Boeing has added that a software upgrade for the 737 MAX jetliner, which has been grounded around the world, will be rolled out in the coming weeks.
The company has been working on the upgrade since the deadly Lion Air crash.
WATCH: Black boxes from Ethiopian airliner arrive in Paris
‘Clear similarities’ between Boeing 737 MAX 8 crashes
Adding to the criticism of the Boeing planes are reports that there were “clear similarities” found between the Ethiopian crash and the Lion Air crash.
Investigators at the French BEA air accident authority, who verified data extracted from the black box recorders of the Ethiopian plane, said Monday: “During the verification process of the FDR (flight data recorder) data, clear similarities were noted by the investigation team between Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 and Lion Air Flight 610, which will be the subject of further study during the investigation.”
The data extraction was verified by the Ethiopian Accident Investigation Bureau, the BEA and the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board.
— With files from The Associated Press, Reuters