U.S. Senate Commerce Committee chairman Roger Wicker on Tuesday launched an investigation into any potential connection between inadequate training and certification of aviation safety inspectors who might have participated in the evaluation of the Boeing 737 Max 8. In a letter to acting FAA administrator Daniel Elwell, the Mississippi senator said the committee had received information from “multiple whistleblowers” alleging insufficient training and improper certification of Federal Aviation Administration aviation safety inspectors (ASI).
“Allegations from these whistleblowers include information that numerous FAA employees, including those involved in the Aircraft Evaluation Group (AEG) for the Boeing 737 Max, had not received proper training and valid certifications,” wrote Wicker. “Some of these FAA employees were possibly involved as participants on the Flight Standardization Board (FSB).”
The AEG formed an FSB to evaluate the 737 Max 8 to determine the requirements for pilot type ratings, to develop minimum training recommendations, and to ensure initial flight crewmember competency.
“In light of recent 737 crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia, the committee is investigating any potential connection between inadequate training and certification of aviation safety inspectors who may have participated in the FSB evaluation of the 737 Max,” added Wicker. “Specifically, the committee is concerned that such potential lack of training and certification of FAA ASI, and participation of those ASI on the FSB, may have led to an improper evaluation of the maneuvering characteristics augmentation system (MCAS). If true, this raises the question of whether a specific reference to the MCAS should have been included in the FSB report.”
According to the whistleblowers and related documents obtained by the Commerce Committee, the FAA might have received notification about the deficiencies as early as August 2018 and completed an investigation into the allegations “recently.”
Wicker requested that Elwell provide answers to nine specific questions related to the allegations by April 16.