By Cailey Rizzo
December 12, 2019
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Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

After the first fatal crash aboard the Boeing 737 Max last year, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) continued to allow the aircraft to fly despite its own analysis saying more crashes were likely.

The FAA’s risk assessment after a crash in Indonesia in October 2018 was released during a hearing by the House Transportation Committee. In the assessment, the administration determined that at least 15 more crashes over the next 45 years would be likely if Boeing did not make significant design changes. However, the FAA did not ground the plane until a second fatal crash five months later.

“Despite its own calculations, the FAA rolled the dice on the safety of the traveling public and let the Max continue to fly until Boeing could overhaul its MCAS software,” Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., chairman of the House Transportation Committee, said during the hearing, according to The Associated Press.

Instead of grounding the plane after its findings, the FAA issued an emergency airworthiness directive on November 7, 2018, telling pilots to reference the plane’s documentation. The directive did not directly reference the “Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System,” the anti-stall software involved in both fatal crashes. Combined, the two crashes killed a total of 346 people.

The FAA concluded that if the issue was not resolved, a total of 2,900 people could die in software-related crashes of the 737 Max.

A Boeing spokesperson said their response to the FAA directive was “fully consistent with the FAA’s analysis and established process.”

The FAA “failed to do its job. It failed to provide the regulatory oversight necessary to ensure the safety of the flying public,” DeFazio said in the hearing.

The house hearing also reiterated accusations that Boeing had fallen behind in production of the 737 Max but executives decided to continue with production despite safety concerns of engineers. A Boeing production manager told the committee he “witnessed a factory in chaos and reported serious concerns about production quality to senior Boeing leadership months before the first crash.”

During the hearing on Wednesday, FAA Chief Stephen Dickson said the Boeing 737 Max wouldn’t be recertified to fly until 2020 at the very earliest.