A U.S. government watchdog said on Thursday it will review the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) oversight of two safety features on the Boeing 737 MAX.
The Transportation Department’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) said Thursday it will audit the FAA’s oversight of the inclusion of MCAS, a key airplane software feature in the 737 MAX design, that was cited as a contributing factor in two fatal MAX crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia that killed 346 people.
OIG will also review FAA oversight of the inoperability of Angle of Attack (AOA) disagree alerts on the majority of the MAX fleet in 2019. Boeing in 2017 identified that not all 737 MAX 8
aircraft were equipped with an AOA disagree alerts but did not directly notify FAA of the issue.
An FAA spokesperson said the agency “welcomes the outside scrutiny.”
This will be the fourth review into the MAX by the OIG. In April 2021, the agency opened a review of the FAA’s oversight of the Boeing 737 MAX return to service in late 2020.
The new audit was prompted by a request in February by Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chair Peter DeFazio and Representative Rick Larsen, who oversees a key aviation subcommittee, after they asked what the FAA had done — if anything — to hold Boeing employees responsible for actions in connection with the MAX.
DeFazio’s committee in 2020 issued a report on the MAX crashes saying Boeing withheld “crucial information from the FAA, its customers, and 737 MAX pilots,” including “concealing the very existence of MCAS from 737 MAX pilots.”
MCAS, which was designed to help counter a tendency of the MAX to pitch up, could activate after data from only a single sensor.
Boeing is seeking a waiver of a December deadline imposing a new safety standard for modern cockpit alerts for the MAX 7 and MAX 10. Only Congress can extend the certification deadline if the FAA does not certify the two MAX variants before the end of the year.
Last month, a U.S judge in Texas ruled people killed in the two 737 MAX crashes are legally considered “crime victims” and is considering what remedies to impose. In December, some victims’ relatives argued the department violated their rights when it struck a January 2021 $2.5 billion plea agreement with Boeing to resolve a criminal probe.