The agency's acting head said on Wednesday that the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration FAA is ramping up its oversight of Boeing and plans to add more than 300 employees to its safety office after two fatal 737 MAX crashes in recent years.
The FAA Administrator Billy Nolen told the Senate Commerce Committee that the aviation safety office, which currently has 7,489 employees, plans to have 7,775 by the end of September. The committee held a hearing on FAA safety reforms that Congress directed in 2020 after the 737 MAX crashes killed 346 people in 2018 and 2019.
The FAA currently has 107 full-time staff members who are responsible for regulatory oversight on Boeing, up from 82 a couple of years ago, Nolen said.
He said the FAA has augmented its Boeing oversight team with the equivalent of 35 full-time employees from across the agency to support oversight activities.
A 2020 House of Representatives report said that the two fatal 737 MAX crashes were the culmination of a series of faulty technical assumptions by Boeing s engineers, a lack of transparency on the part of Boeing s management and a grossly insufficient oversight by the FAA. Nolen told reporters that the agency is continuing tow new versions of the MAX 7 and MAX 7 for certification but declined to give a timetable for when they might be approved. The timeline will be determined by safety, according to Nolen.
Nolen met with Boeing last month. Nolen said we had a good level of responsiveness with Boeing. They are committed to the process. Boeing agreed to pay $6.6 million in penalties in 2021, after the FAA said it didn't comply with a 2015 safety agreement and other safety concerns.
In recent years, the FAA has closely examined Boeing's quality and other issues. The FAA continues to inspect each 737 MAX and 787 aircraft before an airworthiness certificate is issued and cleared for delivery. The FAA typically delegates airplane ticketing authority to the manufacturer.
Senator J.D. was a Republican during the hearing. Vance raised questions about two recent Boeing 737 MAX flights and asked whether the 737 MAX was safe after the FAA mandated safety and software updates before lifting a 20 month grounding in late 2020.
Nolen said he can say that the 737 MAX airplane is safe.