The Boeing 737 MAX: Examining the Federal Aviation Administration’s Oversight of the Aircraft’s Certification

2167 Rayburn House Office Building

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0 Wednesday, December 11, 2019 @ 10:00 | Contact: Justin Harclerode 202-225-9446

This is a hearing of the full Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

Official Transcript

Witness List:

Panel I
Mr. Stephen M. Dickson, Administrator, Federal Aviation Administration; accompanied by Mr. Earl Lawrence, Executive Director, Aircraft Certification Service, Federal Aviation Administration | Written Testimony
Mr. Matt Kiefer, Member, Technical Advisory Board, Federal Aviation Administration | Written Testimony

Panel II
Mr. Edward Pierson, Boeing Retiree, appearing in his individual capacity | Written Testimony
Mr. G. Michael Collins, FAA Retiree, appearing in his individual capacity | Written Testimony
Dr. Mica R. Endsley, Ph.D., President, SA Technologies, Former Chief Scientist, U.S. Air Force, Former President, Human Factors and Ergonomics Society | Written Testimony
Captain John Cox, President and Chief Executive Officer, Safety Operating Systems | Written Testimony

Opening remarks, as prepared, of Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Ranking Member Sam Graves (R-MO) and Subcommittee on Aviation Ranking Member Garret Graves (R-LA):

Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Ranking Member Sam Graves (R-MO):
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.  I want to recognize the families and friends of the accident victims.  We have not forgotten your losses, and I assure you we all share the same goal – ensuring our system remains the safest in the world.

This is the fifth hearing on Boeing and the tragic accidents that the Committee has held in eight months.  In addition, there are at least a dozen other reviews and investigations – some that have been completed recently.  We are fortunate to have a representative from the Technical Advisory Board (TAB) with us today.  I am pleased that the Committee will hear from him on the TAB’s ongoing work to independently evaluate Boeing’s software fix.  Collectively, I am confident that these expert reviews will provide us with the insights we need to keep our aviation system the safest in the world.

Today the Majority has invited current FAA leaders to testify.  While they can address FAA’s efforts since the two accidents, they were not in charge between 2012 and 2017 when the MAX certification processes and approvals took place.  Until we hear from the officials in charge at the time, the Majority’s investigation remains incomplete at best and at worst looks as if they are willing to overlook the past Administration’s culpability in the matter. 

As I have said many times, should the investigations reveal problems with the certification process, Congress can and should act accordingly.  However, we must ensure that we have the benefit of all the expert reviews and investigations still underway and focus on the facts and data from those reviews.  When it comes to aviation safety, we must leave out partisanship and avoid “gotcha” moments.

I know that Administrator Dickson, his team, and the thousands of FAA professionals are all dedicated to aviation safety and improving any processes that need improvement.  And I look forward to hearing what the Administrator is doing with the recommendations he has already received and his own observations since taking over leadership of the FAA.

I, along with all Republicans on the Committee, am committed to addressing any problems discovered in the process and working with the Chairman in a bipartisan fashion.  I have said it before, and it bears repeating, as a professional pilot I still believe that the FAA remains the gold standard for safety.  Air travel is the safest mode of transportation in history, and when the FAA clears the 737 MAX to fly again, it will be safe to fly.  Working to ensure that our aviation safety system improves is always the right goal. We have a responsibility to do that together.

Subcommittee on Aviation Ranking Member Garret Graves (R-LA):
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for calling today’s hearing.  I also want to thank the families and loved ones of the victims of Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 for being here.  Your efforts continue to remind us that this isn’t about government and bureaucracy, it’s about people and safety.

This is our fifth Boeing 737 MAX-related hearing of the year, and there are extraordinary efforts underway to ensure we extract every lesson we can from the accidents.  Those efforts include the investigations of the  Special Committee of the Safety Oversight and Certification Advisory Committee, the Joint Authorities Technical Review, the Technical Advisory Board, the Flight Standardization Board, the Boeing board of directors committee on airplane policies and processes, the National Transportation Safety Board, this committee’s majority’s investigation, the Department of Transportation Inspector General, the Department of Justice criminal investigation, the Securities and Exchange Commission investigation, and the Indonesian and Ethiopian authorities’ investigations.

Today, we will hear from Administrator Dickson, who’s been on the job for four months, and a member of the Technical Advisory Board to talk about what we’ve learned and the path forward.  We will also hear from some witnesses who have worked inside the certification system on the ground.

No matter what angle you look at these issues from, safety is everyone’s end goal.  I’m worried that the Majority’s investigation seems to be taking a turn in a direction I don’t believe is helpful and could be harmful to the shared goal of safety It seems more and more that the investigation is about trying to paint our aviation system as corrupt or broken.  I believe strongly that nothing can be further from the truth.  There’s a difference between learning hard truths about where we have fallen short or needing to improve and undermining a system that has kept billions of people safe over the years.  Let’s make sure we keep our system the safest in the world. 

What we don’t have today, and haven’t had in any of these hearings yet, are the FAA officials who made any of the decisions back when the aircraft was being certified.  That creates a gap in the hearing record, and Ranking Member Graves and I have requested repeatedly that we fill that void.

I am committed to doing everything we can to make sure we learn from any mistakes, but if we don’t have a full understanding of what happened, then we’re at risk of making uninformed decisions about how to ensure we have the absolute safest system possible.

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