Plane Inspectors Involved in Boeing 737 MAX Trainings Were Reportedly Underqualified and FAA Misled Congress

Federal safety inspectors who worked on training requirements for the Boeing 737 MAX airplane were underqualified, according to findings from the U.S. Office of the Special Counsel.

An OSC disclosure of wrongdoing, released on Tuesday, detailed the alleged misconduct. The information in the OSC report adds to scrutiny facing the Federal Aviation Administration over the crashes of two Boeing 737 MAX planes, which caused the deaths of 346 people and led to the grounding of the plane.

The OSC said that the FAA's independent Office of Audit and Evaluation, which looks at whistleblower allegations, found 16 of 22 safety inspectors did not complete their formal training. These safety inspectors are "responsible for ensuring pilot competency by developing training and experience requirements," the statement said.

Eleven of those 16 individuals who had not finished training had not received their Certified Flight Instructor certificates, which a press release from the OSC described as a "basic position requirement."

The agency also said that the FAA was misleading while speaking to Congress in April, shortly after the second fatal crash involving the Boeing 737 MAX.

In response to a question from Mississippi Senator Roger Wicker, Daniel K. Elwell, who was acting FAA administrator at the time, wrote that "all of the flight inspectors who participated in the Boeing 737 Max Flight Standardization Board certification activities were fully qualified for these activities."

The OSC report and letters about the investigation call that FAA response into question.

A letter sent to President Donald Trump on Monday about the inquiry said that "FAA's official responses to Congress appear to have been misleading in their portrayal of FAA employee training and competency." It also says that the OSC obtained internal FAA communications that "cast serious doubt" on the aviation agency's statements regarding the training of its inspectors.

The FAA denied the claims made by the OSC.

"The FAA stands behind its response to Sen. Wicker's questions about the qualifications of Flight Standardization Board members. All of the Aviation Safety Inspectors who participated in the evaluation of the Boeing 737 MAX were fully qualified for those activities," an agency spokesperson told Newsweek.

When contacted, Boeing communications director Chaz Bickers referred Newsweek to a statement from the FAA.

Boeing said on Monday that it would pay $144,500 to families that lost relatives in the crashes. In July, the company pledged a $50 million fund for affected families and said that it would pay another $50 million for education and economic projects for communities that were impacted.

The Boeing 737 MAX has been grounded since March and stock prices have fallen since. On March 1, before the second crash, stock prices sold at $440.62. On Tuesday, stocks opened at $379.54.

FAA
Boeing 737 MAX airplanes are seen parked on Boeing property near Boeing Field in Seattle, Washington, on August 13. David Ryder/Getty Images