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From Zero Hedge
By Tyler Durden
It seems like barely a day goes by without the Wall Street Journal or some other news organization publishing some alarming scoop about oversights or unexplained lapses at Boeing or the FAA during the certification process of the 737 MAX 8.
We've already learned that Boeing didn't realize until after the Lion Air crash back in October that a warning system meant to alert pilots when MCAS - the anti-stall software suspected in contributing to two deadly crashes - was malfunctioning had been made an optional feature on all of the 737 8s it sold to Southwest, its largest customer. And neither did the FAA.
Now, ahead of a hearing before a House Transportation subcommittee on Wednesday, WSJ is reporting that senior FAA officials weren't involved in the agency's review of MCAS, despite the unprecedented power delegated to the system in the new generation of 737s, because the agency viewed the system as a "non-critical safety risk."
Asked how it arrived at this conclusion, the agency told WSJ that Boeing hadn't designated MCAS as a critical system, and the agency simply took the aerospace company at its word.
According to the report details leaked to WSJ, it's not clear why Boeing didn't designate MCAS as a 'critical system', though the FAA doesn't believe the company intentionally violated any certification rules. It's also unclear what kind of oversight process, if any, the FAA exercised over Boeing's decision. Boeing, in turn, said that it didn't feel the system was 'critical' - and that relying on a single sensor for flight data was appropriate - because pilots could simply switch MCAS off. Though that didn't pan out in practice, as the pilots of the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines flights both tried, and failed, to disable MCAS before the system forced their planes into a deadly downward dive.
Still, the FAA doesn't really have an explanation for why it delegated so much authority to Boeing.
The revelations come as Congress has subpoenaed representatives from pilots unions and the major airlines to testify. The DOT is also ramping up its own investigation. One thing is becoming increasingly clear: Before the grounding of the 737 MAX 8 is lifted, lawmakers are going to want answers to why these lapses in oversight occurred.