The FBI Is Now Investigating Boeing 737 MAX Aircraft After Crashes

The FBI has joined the Boeing 737 MAX 8 investigation, focusing on how the aircraft got approved by the FAA. Questions have been raised by officials after two Boeing 737 MAX 8 crashes, particularly in regards as to why the aircraft was authorized to be flown without retraining of pilots.

What are the details?

Boeing’s entire 737 MAX 8 line up has been grounded following two recent aircraft crashes, both of them fatal.

As investigators pieced together what happened, they noticed that both incidents had shocking similarities. As such, it appears that there might be an inherent flaw with the Boeing 737 MAX 8’s autopilot and its sensor network.

This presents a problem for pilots who only have experience flying the earlier version of the Boeing 737 (third generation such as the -800 series). With no retraining specified as necessary, they would not know how to correct this error if it occurred onboard.

The reason they don’t know, or rather why they are not trained to deal with it, is because the 737 MAX 8 has the same ‘type’ rating as the 737-800. A new aircraft requires new training, whilst a new model of an old type is the same ‘aircraft’.

Boeing 737 MAX 8
All Boeing 737 MAX aircraft are currently grounded due to safety concerns. Photo: Wikimedia.

This had lead to questions regarding how the aircraft was allowed to fly in the first place. In particular, how the FAA issued it with the same type rating, when clearly something new had been built in.

Was certification rushed?

Enter the FBI. The US government agency is looking into the relationship of the FAA and Boeing (one of America’s biggest companies) to see if there was any bias regarding certification of this aircraft. The FFA has an office near the Boeing factory in Seattle and its likely, having a close working relationship, that members of the team are intimate with Boeing. Whether or not that relationship was abused by either party will be the matter of the FBI to decide.

As reported by the Seattle Times, the FAA has pushed much of its certification process onto the airplane manufacturers in order to save time and money. The 737 MAX 8 was rushed, according to some, and much of the due diligence was pushed through.

“There was constant pressure to re-evaluate our initial decisions,” a source told the Seattle Times, “and even after we had reassessed it … there was continued discussion by management about delegating even more items down to the Boeing Company.”

Boeing 737 MAX family
Boeing 737 MAX family. Image: Boeing

The future of Boeing

The 737 MAX family of aircraft represent at least 80% of Boeing’s entire order book and, some would say, the future of the company.

The FBI is assisting the Department of Transportation in a criminal investigation. It will include a grand jury probe no less, to discover how the plane got approved. The FBI has not officially said they are investigating, but only assisting at this stage.

Investigations, especially criminal, are rare in the aviation industry. The outcome of the probe will undoubtedly have a bearing on the future of Boeing as a company.

What do you think? Is the involvement of the FBI necessary?

6 comments
  1. It seems here that the FAA left it all to Boeing, not surprising as some of the old CEO’s of the FAA where ex Boeing. Talk about jobs for the boys, more seriously is the threat to passengers in this scenario. I wonder if the FAA is so lenient with Airbus? I think not. As the saying goes “America first!”

  2. As a retired Civil Aviation Safety Inspector having being involved in past Aircraft Certification programs, I know and understand the pressure/politics involved. BOEING & the FAA MUST BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE for these 346 people lost over this unacceptable BOEING MAX aircraft Certification Program. Totally preventable and ‘hopefully’ involuntary manslaughter charges will be given here against responsible personnel in both of these organisations. The travelling public expect authorities to act in the peoples interest for safety and NOT PROFIT?! I refer you to the FAAs Mission/Vision/Values statements at: faa.gov/mission/vision/values

  3. This is not just a Boeing issue. The oversight for vast amounts of aircraft design (both fixed wing and helicopter) and manufacture have been pushed to the companies. This started years ago as the FAA budget was reduced. So basically the manufacturing industry is policing itself at this point.

  4. Yes the NG does not have MCAS but to disengage the MCAS is no different that dealing with runaway trim on the NG or even the Classic. This is a memory item emergency and both MCAS and runaway trim has the same appearance from the pilots point of view.

  5. So when do we have a criminal investigation along with a DOT investigation before a final report is out? What is the evidence that supports potential criminal charges or would warrant a criminal investigation? Is this guilty until proven innocent? Are we fishing for a crime? Let the DOT IG do their job and not be hindered (tainting of possible evidence from the criminal probe) by a parallel criminal investigation when there is literally no supporting evidence (yet)…isn’t that what the DOT IG report would either (or not) recommend? At least follow ICAO accident standards!!! I’m not a Boeing fan but a constitutional fan…this wreaks of political bias and misinformed politicians looking for blood. Let’s first see where the cuts are before we determine whats bleeding?

    Don McGregor

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