U.S. Transportation Department probes FAA approval of 737 MAX Jets

Vastavam web: The U.S. Department of Transportation is investigating the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) approval of Boeing Co’s 737 MAX jets, the Wall Street Journal said on Sunday, citing people familiar with the inquiry. The investigation by the department’s inspector general was launched after a Lion Air crash in October killed 189 people, the newspaper said, months before the March 10 crash of an Ethiopian Airlines plane killed 157.

Both planes were MAX 8s, and both crashed minutes post take-off after pilots reported flight control problems. Boeing did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The Federal Aviation Administration declined to comment. Two government officials briefed on the matter told it would not be surprising for the Transportation Department to investigate a major safety issue but could not immediately confirm the report.

Earlier in the day, Ethiopia said the Ethiopian Airlines crash had “clear similarities” with the Lion Air crash, according to initial analysis of the black boxes recovered from the wreckage. “The data was successfully recovered. Both the American team and our (Ethiopian) team validated it,” he told Reuters, adding that the ministry would provide more information after three or four days. In Washington, however, U.S. officials told the FAA and U.S. National Transportation Safety Board had not yet validated the data.

When investigators, after reviewing black box data, return to Addis Ababa and start conducting interpretive work, the NTSB and FAA will assist in verification and validation of the data, an official said. It was not clear how many of the roughly 1,800 parameters of flight data and two hours of cockpit recordings, spanning the doomed six-minute flight and earlier trips, had been taken into account in the preliminary Ethiopian analysis. International rules require a preliminary report on the crash to be released within 30 days.