Air Crash Report Likely to be Released this Week, FAA to Revamp Oversight

March 26, 2019

A preliminary report on an Ethiopian Airlines crash will very likely be released this week, the country’s transport ministry said on Tuesday, as Boeing prepares to brief more airlines on software and training updates on the 737 MAX jet.

In the meantime, U.S. Transportation Department Inspector General Calvin Scovel said the Federal Aviation Administration will significantly change its oversight approach to air safety by July 2019. Boeing’s self certification of the safety of its MAX aircraft has come under Congressional scrutiny. Scovel’s comments were made in in written testimony ahead of a U.S. Senate panel hearing scheduled for Wednesday.

The aviation industry and grieving families of victims of the March 10 crash are anxiously awaiting details from the Ethiopia-led investigation.

Families and friends of the 157 killed gathered for a tearful ceremony in the Ethiopian capital on Tuesday to unveil a plaque and plant an olive tree with soil from the crash site.

Boeing has come under intense scrutiny since the crash, the second in five months involving its new 737 MAX 8 model.

The MAX software is among the leading areas of focus for investigations into the two crashes — in Ethiopia this month and in Indonesia last year — in which 346 lives were lost.

Boeing is this week briefing airlines on software and training updates for the MAX, with more than 200 global airline pilots, technical experts and regulators due in Renton, Washington, where the plane is built.

Any fixes to the MAX software must still get approval from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and eventually from governments around the world, a process that could take months.

The 737 MAX is Boeing’s best-selling plane, with orders worth more than $500 billion at list prices. Within less than a week after the Ethiopian crash, the jets were grounded globally.

China’s civil aviation regulator has stopped taking applications for MAX 8 airworthiness certification, an official from the regulator said on Tuesday.

High Stakes

On Tuesday, a spokesman for Ethiopia’s Transport Ministry, which is leading the investigation in Addis Ababa, told Reuters that the report will very likely be released this week though he cautioned that “there could be unpredictable things” and declined to give further details.

The statement came a day after Ethiopian Airlines Chief Executive Tewolde Gebremariam said he expected the preliminary report to be released this week or next week.

The stakes are high for the global aviation industry.

The initial report from the investigation will begin to paint a more detailed picture of what went wrong during ET 302’s six minutes in the air — likely with huge consequences for the plane’s manufacturer, the airline, or both.

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