FAA engineers initially recommended grounding Boeing 737 Max, report says

Boeing 737 MAX on a steep angled landing descent to Farnborough, UK
Steve Mann / Shutterstock.com

The Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) in 2019 initially overrode its own engineers’ recommendation to ground the Boeing 737 Max after a second fatal crash, a report says.  

According to the inspector general for the Department of Transportation (DoT) investigators found that engineers “recommended grounding the airplane while the accident was being investigated based on what they perceived as similarities” between two fatal Boeing 737 MAX crashes. 

The DoT report, which was released on Friday April 28, 2023, said at the time there was also rival data that concluded the two crashes were not linked. 

Ultimately the FAA decided not to ground the aircraft immediately after an Ethiopian Airlines jet crashed on March 10, 2019, and instead wait for “more detailed data to arrive”. 

According to CNN in March 2019 while the FAA awaited more data, the authority issued an official notice supporting its decision not to ground the 737 MAX

At the time an engineer concluded that based on their analysis the risk of a 737 MAX crash was 13 times higher than the relevant FAA standard. 

However, this document was not completed and was not reviewed due to a lack of detailed data.  

In its conclusion the inspector general said that the FAA’s processes following the second fatal crash “aligned with its typical processes” but referred to these as “outdated”. 

The FAA told the inspector general it was updating its guidelines on grounding an aircraft when urgent safety issues are detected.  

The FAA told CNN that it “concurs with the Inspector General’s recommendations.” 

“The agency also identified the issues outlined in the report before it was issued and is working to address them,” the FAA said. “As we incorporate these recommendations, we also continue to look for additional opportunities to apply lessons learned from the Boeing 737 MAX’s return to service.” 

The first fatal 737 MAX crash on October 29, 2018, involved a Lion Air flight.  

Following the Ethiopian Airlines crash seven months later, three days past before the 737 MAX was grounded in the United States.  

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