WASHINGTON — The Federal Aviation Administration said late on Wednesday it is launching a new review of the safety of the now-grounded Boeing 737 MAX that will be headed by a formal top U.S. safety official.
The FAA said it is establishing a Joint Authorities Technical Review “to ensure the safety of the Boeing 737 MAX” to be chaired by former National Transportation Safety Board chairman Christopher Hart “and comprised of a team of experts from the FAA, NASA, and international aviation authorities.”
More than 300 Boeing 737 MAX jets have been grounded worldwide after two crashes – in Indonesia in October and in Ethiopia last month – killed nearly 350 people.
The FAA said the group “will conduct a comprehensive review of the certification of the automated flight control system on the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft” and “evaluate aspects of the 737 MAX automated flight control system, including its design and pilots’ interaction with the system, to determine its compliance with all applicable regulations and to identify future enhancements that might be needed.”
An FAA official said the review was not related to when the agency would decide to allow the 737 MAX back into service. Boeing did not immediately comment.
The review comes two days after the FAA and Boeing signaled the planes may be grounded for longer than previously thought.
Boeing said last week that it was reprogramming software on its 737 MAX passenger jet to prevent erroneous data from triggering an anti-stall system that is under mounting scrutiny following the two deadly nose-down crashes.
The world’s largest planemaker said the anti-stall system, which is believed to have repeatedly forced the nose lower in the Indonesia accident, would only do so one time after sensing a problem, giving pilots more control.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee said it was investigating claims by a number of whistleblowers that aviation safety inspectors, including some who worked to evaluate the now-grounded Boeing 737 MAX, were not properly trained or certified.
Federal prosecutors aided by the FBI, the Transportation Department inspector general’s office and a blue ribbon panel to be named by Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao are also reviewing the plane’s certification.
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