- FAA head Steve Dickson is testifying before a House transportation committee hearing about the Boeing 737 Max on Wednesday.
- A former Boeing employee turned whistleblower, Edward Pierson, is also scheduled to appear at Wednesday’s hearing, along with others.
- We’ll be updating this story throughout the hearing – refresh this page for updates.
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Federal Aviation Administration head Steve Dickson is testifying before a House transportation committee, answering questions about the process of certifying the Boeing 737 Max.
A former Boeing employee turned whistleblower, Edward Pierson, is also scheduled to appear. Pierson raised concerns about conditions on Boeing’s 737 production line in 2018.
Dickson, a former Delta Air Lines executive, took over the FAA in August, just five months after the second of two fatal 737 Max crashes. He has led the agency’s response to criticism over the certification of the plane, which had been granted in 2017.
Wednesday’s hearing is the first at which Dickson has testified about the plane. Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg and chief engineer John Hamilton testified before House and Senate committees earlier this fall.
During his opening statement, Dickson confirmed that a certification flight and a final documentation review of the fixed Max had not occurred yet, essentially confirming that the Max will not fly again in 2019.
The hearing started with a discussion of a November, 2018 internal FAA review which, following the first 737 Max crash, found that the plane had a high likelihood of future crashes. However, despite finding a likelihood for 15 future crashes caused by the plane’s design, the FAA allowed the plane to continue flying. It was eventually grounded after the second fatal crash, Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 in March, 2019.
“I don’t know why this aeroplane wasn’t grounded after the analysis was done,” Rep. Peter DeFazio said.
“Over a 45 year period, we’d have an unacceptable level of risk,” Dickson said. “So we’d have to take action to reduce that risk.”
Boeing began working on a fix for the faulty MCAS software following the first crash, but the plane continued flying in the interim.
Dickson also said that he would have been comfortable flying on the plane even after seeing the analysis, and that he would both fly the plane and complete any pilot training courses before it’s allowed to fly again.
“The system is not broken,” Dickson said, defending the overall safety and regulatory processes of the FAA. However, he also admitted in response to questioning that the FAA had made mistakes in the plane’s certification.
He also left open the possibility of fining Boeing in the future for not disclosing safety concerns with the 737 Max. “I reserve the right to take further action,” he said, “and we may very well do that.”
Pierson spoke in public for the first time earlier this week in interviews with NBC News and The New York Times.
“What I witnessed firsthand, the chaos and the instability in the factory, is really unsettling to me as someone who’s been around aircraft their entire life,” he told The Times.
During his opening statement on Wednesday, Pierson said that he had tried to raise concerns, citing former military experience and saying that a military program with so many alarming things would not be allowed to continue. He said he was told “the military isn’t a profit-making organisation.”
G. Michael Collins, a retired FAA aerospace engineer, Dr. Mica Endsley, an aviation expert with the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, and Captain John Cox, president and CEO of Safety Operating Systems, are also on the panel with Pierson.
We’ll be updating this story throughout the hearings; check back for live updates.
Are you an employee with Boeing or the FAA who has knowledge about the 737 Max? Email this reporter at [email protected].
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