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FAA Oversights of Boeing Examined in Senate Hearings Today

Airline companies and flyers demand answers from FAA about true causes of recent airline crashes

America’s standards for aviation-safety regulation are on trial today as congressional hearings get underway regarding the Federal Aviation Administration’s monitoring of Boeing in its manufacture and approval of the 737 Max 8 aircraft.

The Senate aviation subcommittee is hearing testimony today from the acting head of the FAA, the Transportation Department inspector general, who is leading a review of the FAA and Boeing. It will also hear testimony from the nation’s top transportation safety investigator.

Inspector General Calvin Scovel III is expected to reveal plans to significantly revamp the FAA’s oversight of airplane construction this summer and discuss his office’s findings of management weaknesses with a number of the agency’s oversight processes over the years, according to recent reports from TIME.

“While revamping FAA’s oversight process will be an important step, continued management attention will be key to ensure the agency identifies and monitors the highest-risk areas of aircraft certification,” Scovel wrote in his prepared remarks obtained by The Associated Press.

Even though the agency has made improvements, it plans to develop new evaluation criteria for training and company self-audits, Scovel wrote. Those plans should be announced and in place by July.

Meanwhile, Acting FAA Administrator Daniel Elwell is testifying that Boeing submitted an application on Jan. 21 spelling out changes it planned to make to crucial flight-control software on the 737 Max — the same system that is suspected of playing a role in the Oct. 29 crash of a Lion Air jet in Indonesia and the March 10 plunge of an Ethiopian Airlines Max. In all, 346 people died.

The FAA sent a notification today to global aviation authorities saying the installation of Boeing’s new automatic flight software in the grounded jets and related training was a priority for the agency.