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?