Lawmakers on 25 September scrutinised the US Federal Aviation Administration’s oversight of the aircraft safety certification process, including whether the agency misled the US Senate about the qualifications of inspectors to certify and assess pilot training for Boeing 737 Max aircraft.
FAA deputy administrator Dan Elwell testified during a hearing of the House Committee on Appropriations that the agency did not provide misleading information about inspector training in May in response to an inquiry from Senator Roger Wicker.
On 24 September, the independent Office of the Special Counsel (OSC) published results of an investigation that concluded FAA safety inspectors “were neither qualified under agency policy to certify pilots flying the 737 Max, nor to assess pilot training on procedures and maneuvers.”
“We fundamentally disagree with OSC’s conclusions,” says Elwell. “Any insinuation that the FAA misled chairman Wicker in our reply to his inquiry is not what happened”.
Wicker, who is chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, in April began investigating a 2018 whistleblower complaint about inadequate training of Flight Standardization Board personnel inspecting a Gulfstream 7 jet.
The OSC investigation that included FAA whistleblower testimony and internal agency communications states the findings of inadequate training “may have significant bearing on the competency of pilots certified to fly several aircraft, including the Boeing 737 Max and the Gulfstream 7”.
The FAA Office of Audit and Evaluation had reviewed the 2018 whistleblower complaint Wicker referenced and found that inspectors certifying procedures for Gulfstream 7 aircraft were sometimes confused what mandatory training they needed.
That audit report was “not related to the specific work of the 737 Max Flight Standardization Board members,” Elwell testified. “That said, the original whistleblower complaint did raise legitimate issues.”
Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence told Cirium she remained concerned about the FAA’s dismissal of the special counsel’s concerns, adding “the FAA cannot just write off an auditing body.”.