Officials of the Federal Aviation Administration defended the agency certification procedure involving the now-plausible Boeing 737 Max aircraft, told the House Transportation Committee on Wednesday that the process by which paid employees of companies inspect their own aircraft was "a good system."
FA.A. executive, Daniel Elwell, said his agency was reviewing old practices that allowed A.A certified employees. in 79 aircraft manufacturers to assist in aircraft certification. But he said he supported the idea of delegating "certain tasks and decisions" in the certification process to private employees, although there were criticisms that the practice had caused a lack of supervision.
Mr Elwell, a former pilot and industry lobbyist, faced two hours of questions from skeptical committee members, the first of several hearings planned by the committee to be held on the regulator's role after two fatal accidents involving troubled aircraft.
"How can we have a single point of failure on a modern airplane?" Asked Representative Peter A. DeFazio, Democrat from Oregon and chairman of the committee, who questioned whether the inspection system might have caused problems with the aircraft. "How is it certified? We don't have to be here today."
Representative Rick Larsen, a Democrat from Washington who heads the Transportation Committee for Aviation Subcommittee, urged Mr. Elwell on the agency's appointed authorization process, and the role of F.A.A in developing pilot training procedures for 737 Max. Pilots were not notified of the anti-kiosk system known as the new MCAS on the plane and which played a role in both collisions.
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"The committee's investigation has just begun, and it will take time to get an answer, but one thing is clear now: F.A.A. has a credibility problem, "said Mr. Larsen.
737 Max landed in March after Ethiopian Airlines flight crashed shortly after taking off from Addis Ababa, killing all 157 people inside. Less than five months earlier, the Lion Air 737 Max flight crashed in Indonesia, killing 189 people.
"I think the MCAS should be more adequately explained" to pilots around the world, said Mr Elwell. He faced a number of questions about whether pilots were given proper training about changes to the navigation system and aircraft stabilization.
Elwell also said he was "unhappy" with a 13-month pause between reports of "software anomalies" on the control panel indicators, and Boeing's actions to address the problem. But he said he did not believe that the problem contributed to the crash.
Boeing is expected to immediately hand over software repairs that will prevent automated systems from activating based on incorrect data, a factor in both collisions, according to agency investigators. The initial version of the new software is being tested in a simulator, F.A.A. officials said.
Mr. Elwell did not provide a timetable for when the aircraft would be allowed to fly again. He said the agency would only clean the aircraft based on recommendations from a multi-agency technical advisory board consisting of experts from the FAA, the Air Force, NASA and the Volpe National Transportation System Center which was not involved in the initial certification 737 Max.
A A. Officials held a meeting with flight officials from other countries this month to address their concerns about the plane, he said, efforts to increase confidence in the "un-grounding" of the aircraft when it was finally approved.
Mr. Elwell was also pressured about why FA.A. don't land planes until China, most of Europe and Canada already have them.
"Why did it take so long?" Asked Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat and a District of Columbia delegation who did not vote for the DPR.
"Public perception," added Representative Dina Titus, a Democrat from Nevada, that F.A.A. "It's in bed" with Boeing.
Mr Elwell said the decision to land the jet was based on consultations with Canadian authorities that provided radar tracking information connecting two accidents with the MCAS system. He defended FA.A. as a "data-based" organization and said that of the 24 reports handling problems with the aircraft, "nothing" was related to the MCAS.
He also suggested throughout the trial that the experience and actions by the flight crew in both accidents might have contributed to the accident.
"They never control airspeed," he said.
Earl Lawrence, executive director of aircraft certification bodies, said F.A.A. is in the process of establishing a new office to oversee the public-private inspection process. He added that 737 Max was approved only after five years and 10,000 "working hours".
"We are utilizing the expertise of the people who designed and built the aircraft to help us," Lawrence said.
"I am proud of my team," he added about federal employees overseeing Boeing's work.
Also on Wednesday, the Senate Committee on Trade, Science and Transportation will question Stephen Dickson, a former executive of Delta Air Lines who has tapped President Trump to permanently lead FA.A., about aircraft.
For the past two months, Mr. DeFazio has requested a stack of documents from F.A.A. and Boeing regarding the inspection and review process carried out to determine the security of the MCAS. He mainly focuses on why Boeing does not need pilots to undergo further training with anti-kiosk systems.
Mr. DeFazio has not received the requested document, even though F.A.A. expected to immediately begin releasing documents to the committee. It is not clear when Boeing intends to reply – and Mr. DeFazio warned manufacturers that they needed to supply documents "voluntarily" or he would look for other ways to get them.
Senator Edward J. Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts and a member of the Trade, Science and Transportation Committee, also sent a request to Boeing to get answers to the procedure. He has received two pages later which refer to Mr. public statement Elwell before but only gave a little new information.
Sometimes, committee members seem impatient with Mr. Elwell to provide detailed answers to internal improvements planned by the agency.
Meanwhile, Mr. Elwell expressed concern that criticism of the actions of F.A.A. has a negative impact on the agency.
"I'm a little worried about morals now across from the FA.A.," said Mr Elwell.