- The head of a major pilots’ union is set to testify against Boeing before Congress on Wednesday morning in the aftermath of fatal crashes by its 737 Max jets.
- Prepared remarks from Captain Daniel Carey of the Allied Pilots Association – seen by Business Insider – also takes aim at the independence of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
- “I completely agree with the Boeing CEO’s assessment that the company let down the public with catastrophic consequences,” he said in his prepared remarks.
- Carey will also tell Congress that an early suggestion by Boeing that pilot error may have caused the crashes “offended” his union.
- He will conclude that Boeing’s “final fatal mistake” was not giving pilots enough information about the systems on board the 737 Max.
The head of a major pilots’ union is due to criticise Boeing and the US Federal Aviation Administration in excoriating remarks to Congress, seen in advance by Business Insider.
Captain Daniel Carey, the president of the Allied Pilots Association (APA), is due to address the House subcommittee on aviation on Wednesday morning.
APA represents 15,000 pilots for American Airlines, which has a large 737 Max fleet.
His testimony focuses on what he describes as Boeing’s “final, fatal mistake” of giving pilots insufficient information on the automated systems investigators believe to have been behind the two crashes.
According to the prepared remarks, he will say: “unfortunately, as pilots know, improvements in aviation are often written in the blood of the unfortunate victims of aeroplane accidents.”
The testimony also says Boeing engineers made “many mistakes” with the plane’s automated anti-stall system, known as MCAS. Preliminary reports into both crashes say the MCAS system misfired and left the planes out of the pilots’ control as they plunged downward.
The crashes, in Indonesia in October 2018 and in Ethiopia in March 2019, killed a combined total of 346 people.
Carey said that the design relied on the pilots to act if the system misfired, but that Boeing made a “huge error of omission” by not disclosing this system, called MCAS, to pilots.
He said that the lack of training for pilots on this system was Boeing’s “final fatal mistake.”
The APA previously shared audio of their meeting with Boeing executives in October, after the first 737 Max crash, where they raised concerns about the plane and Boeing downplayed the idea that one could happen again. An APA spokesman told CNN in May that the second crash could have been avoided if Boeing listened to its pilots.
Boeing’s previous suggestion that pilot error may have caused the crashes“offended” members of the APA, Carey said, as he criticised suggestions from some in the media that training standards may have been lower in the countries where the crashes occurred.
“To make the claim that these accidents would not happen to US-trained pilots is presumptuous and not supported by fact. Vilifying non-US pilots is disrespectful and not solution-based, nor is it in line with a sorely needed global safety culture that delivers one standard of safety and training.”
He also said that Ethiopian Airlines has a simulator for the 737 Max, while no US airlines do.
Carey said that he agreed with the apology issued by Boeing CEO Muilenburg on Monday, who said that Boeing made a “mistake” in how it handled the MCAS system.
Carey said: “Unfortunately, in the matter of the 737 MAX, I completely agree with the Boeing CEO’s assessment that the company let down the public with catastrophic consequences.”
In a statement to Business Insider, Boeing said: “We are working with the FAA, global regulators, airlines and pilots to provide them the information they need, to re-earn their trust and know we must be more transparent going forward.”
Carey’s testimony on Wednesday morning will be part of a House probe into how the crash came about and how the FAA oversees plane certification.
The union is also questioning how the FAA certifies planes
Carey said that the most “urgent” question is the “adequacy” of how the FAA certifies planes, questioning how it stays objective despite its close relationship to manufacturers.
Carey will ask Congress if the “FAA is sufficiently independent of the manufacturers so as to provide a legitimately rigorous audit of the manufacturers’ design and engineering.”
The FAA’s certification system, which allows manufacturers to certify their own planes, has come under fire since the Boeing 737 Max crashes, especially after the acting head of the FAA told Congress in March that Boeing helped to certify the MCAS system itself.
The FAA delegates parts of the plane-certification process to aircraft manufacturers as part of a longstanding policy that the FAA is defending.
Daniel Elwell, the acting administrator of the FAA, told a Senate committee in March that the system produces safe aircraft, and said that the FAA would need 10,000 more employees and an additional $US1.8 billion if it were to be solely responsible for aircraft-safety certifications.
Experts told Business Insider in April that the FAA’s reputation is under threat and could suffer, endangering its status in the US as the gold standard for aviation safety worldwide.
Carey will also ask Congress if the FAA is “sufficiently equipped” to make sure pilot training is adequate as the technology on planes becomes more advanced.
He will also question whether an aircraft’s certification should have an expiration date – pointing out that the Max jets were an upgrade of the 737, which was certified in 1967.
The FAA told Business Insider in response: “The FAA’s aircraft certification processes are well established and have consistently produced safe aircraft designs. The 737-MAX certification program took five years and involved 110,000 hours of work on the part of FAA personnel, following the FAA’s standard certification process.”
It said that its work certifying planes includes ground and flight tests, checking the plane has the required “maintenance and operational suitability” to be entered into service, and working with civil aviation authorities as they work to certify the plane.
It said it received “no whistle blower complaints or any other reports in any of the agency’s reporting systems alleging pressure to speed up 737 MAX certification,” and that the Max certification process took around five years.
“Pilot training in the U.S. is the most rigorous and sophisticated in the world. All participants – including the government, airlines and pilots’ unions – continuously evaluate ways to improve training, and we work swiftly to make changes when we identify ways to make these programs even more robust,” the FAA said.
“This is a subject we understand very well.”
Carey said that the APA is still concerned for the future of the plane, even as Boeing works on a software update that would lift it from being grounded around the world.
He said the union is worried “about whether the new training protocol, materials and method of instruction suggested by Boeing are adequate to ensure that pilots across the globe flying the Max fleet can do so in absolute complete safety.”
“We owe it to those lost souls and to the flying public, worldwide, to make sure these kinds of events never happen again,” Carey says in his prepared remarks.
“As sad and grim as these crashes were, there is an opportunity to lead and bring something positive out of this darkness. “
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