Senate investigators fault FAA over Boeing jet, safety

FILE - In this Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019 file photo, a United Airlines Boeing 737 Max airplane takes off in the rain at Renton Municipal Airport in Renton, Wash. Boeing improperly influenced a test designed to see how quickly pilots could respond to malfunctions on the Boeing 737 Max, and Federal Aviation Administration officials may have obstructed a review of two deadly crashes involving the plane, Senate investigators say. In a report released Friday, Dec. 18, 2020 the Senate Commerce Committee also said the FAA continues to retaliate against whistleblowers.(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File) (Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Boeing improperly influenced a test designed to see how quickly pilots could respond to malfunctions on the Boeing 737 Max, and Federal Aviation Administration officials may have obstructed a review of two deadly crashes involving the plane, Senate investigators say.

In a report released Friday, the Senate Commerce Committee also said the FAA continues to retaliate against whistleblowers. The FAA's parent agency, the Transportation Department, has also hindered investigators by failing to turn over documents, it said.

The report follows a similarly scathing review of the FAA by a House panel earlier this year. Both grew out of concern about the agency's approval of the Boeing Max.

In a statement, the FAA said the report “contains a number of unsubstantiated allegations" and defended its review of the Max, calling it thorough and deliberate.

“We are confident that the safety issues that played a role in the tragic accidents involving Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 have been addressed through the design changes required and independently approved by the FAA and its partners,” the agency said.

Boeing didn’t comment on specific allegations.

“We take seriously the Committee’s findings and will continue to review the report in full," the Chicago-based company said.

All Max planes were grounded worldwide after crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia killed 346 people. Following a lengthy review of Boeing changes, the FAA last month approved the plane to fly again if airlines update a key flight-control system and make other changes.