WASHINGTON – The US Department of Transportation announced on Tuesday that it ordered an audit of the certification process of the Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft, after the accident of one of these aircraft on March 10 in Ethiopia in which 157 people died.
The department said in a statement that Elaine L. Chao, the head of the department, “has asked that, as part of an ongoing review of factors related to aviation certification, the Inspector General conduct a formal audit of the certification process for the Boeing 737-MAX 8 aircraft.”
The Inspector General (IG) is an office in federal and state agencies and departments that is charged with overseeing their actions and preventing illegal or ineffective actions.
In her petition to the IG from the Department of Transportation, Chao indicated that “safety is the top priority of the Department, and all of us are saddened by the fatalities resulting from the recent accidents involving two Boeing 737-MAX 8 aircraft in Indonesia and Ethiopia.”
The Ethiopian incident occurred after another Boeing 737 MAX 8, owned by the Indonesian airline Lion Air, crashed into the Java Sea on Oct. 29, 2018 just minutes after taking off from Jakarta, all 189 people on board were killed.
Chao recalled in the note that “Boeing requested an amended type certification for this aircraft in January 2012, and the Federal Aviation Administration issued the certification in March 2017.”
The Secretary of Transportation explained that she has decided to request the audit in order to compile and obtain an “objective and detailed” record of the actions for the certification of this type of aircraft.
She stressed that this step is intended to help inform decision-making in her department and assist the FAA to ensure that safety measures are effectively implemented.
In response to this announcement, Boeing Airlines tweeted that it “will fully cooperate in the Department of Transportation’s audit announced by Secretary Chao.”
On the other hand, the White House revealed on Tuesday in a statement US President Donald Trump’s intention to nominate a new administrator of the FAA, an entity that is part of the Department of Transportation.
The chosen is former pilot Stephen M. Dickson, who, according to the note, has until recently been Senior Vice President of flight operations of the national airline Delta Air Lines.
During his tenure, Dickson was responsible for Delta’s safety and operations, pilot training and regulatory compliance, among other things.
Dickson will replace Daniel Elwell, who has been acting administrator of the US highest civil aviation authority since January 2018.
The FAA’s performance after the Ethiopian accident has been controversial because days after the incident it still said there was no basis for ordering the immobilization of the Boeing 737 MAX 8 fleet.
Finally, Trump ordered on March 13 to ground Boeing’s 737 MAX 8 and 9 in the US, joining the measures taken by about 50 countries and airlines around the world in reaction to the accident.