February 02, 2024

T&I Committee Leaders’ Questions to FAA Administrator Whitaker on Boeing 737 MAX 9 Accident & FAA Oversight

In a letter to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Administrator Michael Whitaker, who is scheduled to testify before the House Aviation Subcommittee on Tuesday, February 6th, the bipartisan leaders of the Aviation Subcommittee and the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee outlined several questions the Administrator should be prepared to answer related to the January 5th rapid depressurization accident involving a Boeing 737 MAX 9 aircraft.

The letter was sent by Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Sam Graves (R-MO), Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Ranking Member Rick Larsen (D-WA), Aviation Subcommittee Chairman Garret Graves (R-LA), and Aviation Subcommittee Ranking Member Steve Cohen (D-TN).  Tuesday’s Aviation Subcommittee hearing, entitled “The State of American Aviation and the Federal Aviation Administration,” will broadly examine many issues facing the FAA and U.S. aviation industry, including the recent 737 MAX 9 accident.

In their letter to Administrator Whitaker, the T&I leaders wrote, “We support the decisions made thus far by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regarding the MAX 9 aircraft, including the announced audit of Boeing’s quality control and safety practices and investigation into Boeing’s 737 MAX 9 manufacturing.  These actions, including those regarding the return to service, are designed to ensure that the highest manufacturing and quality control standards are maintained throughout our aviation ecosystem.”

The T&I leaders asked the Administrator, “[g]iven the seriousness of this accident and this Subcommittee’s oversight responsibilities regarding civil aviation safety,” to be prepared to answer the following questions at the hearing:

  1. Is the FAA considering further action regarding the Safety Management Systems (SMS) requirements for aircraft part suppliers or other entities involved in aircraft manufacturing not captured by current regulations or proposed rulemaking?
  2. Prior to the accident, did the FAA find any evidence of persistent quality control lapses in any of Boeing’s production lines? Separately, has FAA become aware of any lapses since the start of its investigation?
  3. The FAA recently added staff to oversee Boeing’s manufacturing processes for its 737 aircraft. Is the FAA considering any changes to its broader on-site surveillance of Boeing’s and its suppliers’ manufacturing processes to help ensure its products conform to their type design?
  4. What changes, if any, is the FAA considering to its current risk model for inspecting production facilities?
  5. What aspects of production oversight and quality assurance for Boeing’s commercial passenger aircraft are considered ‘delegated’ to the manufacturer? How does the FAA interact with Boeing representatives who perform these delegated functions?
  6. Can you provide an update on implementation of the Aircraft Certification Safety and Accountability Act (ACSAA), specifically sections 102, 103, 107, 122, and 125?
  7. Is the FAA properly staffed and resourced to ensure effective aircraft production oversight, including in its Integrated Certificate Management Division?
  8. Can you describe the communication process between the FAA, Boeing, and the affected airlines since the incident? Were airlines able to receive the information they needed to ensure they could plan ahead and minimize potential operating disruptions for passengers?

Click here to read the full letter.  Click here for more information about the February 6, 2024, hearing.