U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, has released the Committee’s investigation report on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). This investigation began in April of 2019, weeks after the second of two tragic crashes of Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, when Committee staff began receiving information from whistleblowers disclosing numerous concerns related to aviation safety.
“Twenty months ago, the Commerce Committee launched an investigation into FAA safety oversight. We have received disclosures from more than 50 whistleblowers, conducted numerous FAA staff interviews, and reviewed over 15,000 pages of relevant documents,” said Wicker. “Our findings are troubling. The report details a number of significant examples of lapses in aviation safety oversight and failed leadership in the FAA. It is clear that the agency requires consistent oversight to ensure their work to protect the flying public is executed fully and correctly.”
Some of the report’s more significant findings include:
- FAA senior managers have not been held accountable for failure to develop and deliver adequate training in flight standards, despite repeated findings of deficiencies over several decades.
- The FAA continues to retaliate against whistleblowers instead of welcoming their disclosures in the interest of safety.
- The Department of Transportation Office of General Counsel (DOT OGC) failed to produce relevant documents requested by Chairman Wicker as required by Article I, Section I of the Constitution.
- The FAA repeatedly permitted Southwest Airlines to continue operating dozens of aircraft in an unknown airworthiness condition for several years. These flights put millions of passengers at risk.
- During 737 MAX recertification testing, Boeing inappropriately influenced FAA human factor simulator testing of pilot reaction times involving a Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) failure.
- FAA senior leaders may have obstructed a DOT OIG review of the 737 MAX crashes.
The Commerce Committee released a fact sheet highlighting information on improper issuance of airworthiness certificates for 88 Southwest Airlines airplanes in November, 2019. Chairman Wicker also sent a letter to FAA Administrator Stephen Dickson expressing concern about these aircraft. In January of 2020, another fact sheet was released on alleged misconduct by FAA managers at the Flight Standards District Office in Honolulu, Hawaii. An update to this fact sheet was posted on June 17, 2020. The Committee is still reviewing the ongoing production of requested documents from the FAA and additional information received from whistleblowers.