FAA Won’t Clear 737 Max Fixes Until 2020, Agency Chief Says

After crashes that killed 346 people Boeing has been aiming to get its 737 MAX certified to return to the skies this month but the FAA says that cannot happen until 2020

When Dickson was pushed to say whether the FAA had made a mistake in the decision not to ground the MAX following the high risk analysis, he resisted a definitive answer.

"I remain gravely concerned that the dysfunctional production conditions may have contributed to the tragic 737 Max crashes and that the flying public will remain at risk unless this unstable production environment is rigorously investigated and closely monitored by regulators on an ongoing basis", Pierson said in his written remarks. "It failed to provide the regulatory oversight necessary to ensure the safety of the flying public", DeFazio said.

Boeing and the FAA have been under intense scrutiny following crashes that together killed 346 people and have prompted Boeing to cut production of the top-selling jet while new plane deliveries are suspended.

This was despite the FAA's forecast that there could be 15 crashes over the 737 Max's lifetime, unless Boeing fixed a flight control system known as MCAS which has been linked to the disasters.

Boeing said in November it expected the FAA to certify the 737 MAX, issue an airworthiness directive and unground the plane in mid-December, even as it acknowledged it would not win approval for changes to pilot training until January.

Dickson said U.S. aviation safety standards were on par with those in Europe and added that human, or pilot, an error was sometimes as big a factor to accidents as machine, or system, error.

Dickson said at the hearing Boeing could still face fines for not disclosing problems with the 737 MAX earlier.

"The system is not broken", he said.


The head of the International Air Transport Association, Alexandre de Juniac, warned on Wednesday that airlines were nearing the end of their ability to manage the 737 MAX shutdown smoothly.

"Obviously the result was not satisfactory", said Mr Dickson, who was put in charge of the FAA in the summer, after the accidents.

"We really didn't know what the causes were" of the Lion Air crash, Dickson said, adding that issues with plane maintenance and pilot performance also were factors besides the MCAS.

DeFazio said it was not clear how widely the internal FAA risk analysis had been distributed in the agency and whether officials on a key air worthiness panel saw the document. "The decision did not achieve the result that it needed to achieve".

A Boeing spokesman said the company agreed with the FAA's response to the Lion Air crash.

The analysis was completed several weeks after the FAA had already issued the emergency notice to pilots - the agency took no additional steps after estimating 15 future crashes.

Dickson told CNBC in an interview ahead of his testimony before the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee that there are almost a dozen milestones that must be completed before the plane can return to service.

Michael Collins, a former FAA safety engineer who has criticized the agency's move to delegate some decisions to Boeing, also planned to testify.

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