By Cailey Rizzo
November 08, 2019
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Credit: JASON REDMOND/Getty Images

Representatives from the House transportation committee are demanding to know why the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) overruled “potentially catastrophic safety concerns” technical specialists raised over Boeing’s 737 MAX aircraft.

A letter from two committee members sent on Thursday suggests that senior managers at the FAA "sidelined" their own employees’ assessment in favor of petitions from Boeing executives.

“The FAA’s safety and technical experts are being circumvented or sidelined while the interests of Boeing are being elevated by FAA senior management,” Representatives Peter A. DeFazio of Oregon and Rick Larsen of Washington wrote in the letter.

The first concern was about a rudder system that protected the 737 MAX aircraft from engine failure or a snapped cable. In 2014, FAA investigators issued a memo that Boeing’s rudder cable protection was not adequate on the 737 MAX. The manufacturer objected, arguing that the changes would be impractical and expensive. The issue went back and forth for a few years but Boeing never changed the design. In 2017, the aircraft was FAA certified.

The letter also notes another instance wherein the FAA allowed Boeing to remove lightning protection from the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, despite FAA employees’ assessments that recommended otherwise.

The 737 MAX has been grounded since March, when it was involved in two fatal crashes over the course of five months that killed over 300 passengers. Neither of the issues raised in the letter are believed to have contributed to either crash.

The FAA has been given a deadline of November 21 to respond.

Just this week, senior executives from major U.S. airlines, including American, United and Southwest, said they would fly aboard safety demonstration flights when the 737 MAX ban is lifted to prove they're safe for passengers.