Flyers Rights to FAA: Break secrecy pact with Boeing, release 737 MAX documents

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Flyers Rights to FAA: Break secrecy pact with Boeing, release 737 MAX documents
Flyers Rights to FAA: Break secrecy pact with Boeing, release 737 MAX documents
Written by Harry S. Johnson

FlyersRights.org has filed a motion for Summary Judgment in its Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) case against the FAA. (Flyers Rights Education Fund v. FAA, (D.D.C. CV-19-3749 (CKK)). It seeks disclosure of FAA documents pertaining to the proposed ungrounding of the 737 MAX, so independent experts and the public can review the basis on which the FAA intends to unground the plane. 

Two Boeing 737 MAX aircraft crashed within five months of each other in late 2018 & early 2019, killing all 346 passengers and crew. Flyersrights.org, the largest airline passenger organization, filed a FOIA case in December 2019 after the FAA ignored or rejected numerous FOIA requests for 737 MAX documents. 

The request for FAA disclosure is supported by a wide array of independent aviation experts and interests, including:

  • Michael Neely (20 years with Boeing as a system engineer and project engineer), 
  • Javier de Luis PhD (30 years of experience as an aeronautical engineer and manager, MIT lecturer), 
  • Richard Spinks (38 years of experience in process safety, automation engineering),  
  • Dennis Coughlin (31 years of experience as an avionics technician and instructor),
  • Ajit Agtey (40 years of experience as an airline and military pilot, and former Chief Test Pilot of the Indian Air Force),
  • Daniel Gellert (50 years as a commercial airline pilot, Boeing test pilot, and FAA official),
  • Geoffrey Barrance (30 years experience as an avionics, air frame and safety engineer),
  • Gregory Travis (over 30 years experience as a computer software scientist/executive, private pilot),
  • Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger (37 years experience as an airline and military pilot, 10 years as an aviation safety consultant and author, celebrated for successful landing of a disabled airliner in the Hudson River),
  • Michael Goldfarb (over 30 years experience as aviation safety consultant and former FAA aviation safety policy official), and 
  • Sara Nelson, president of the largest flight attendant union Association of Flight Attendants AFA.

Collectively, these experts have over 400 years of experience. They all assert that it is impossible to determine if the pending unground the MAX is safe without disclosure of the details of Boeing MAX fix and FAA testing. 

Over the course of 7 months, the FAA produced approximately 100 documents (more than 8,000 pages), which were either completely or nearly completely redacted on proprietary information grounds (FOIA Exemption 4). These documents included information that is not normally considered proprietary, such as means of compliance with federal regulation.

Paul Hudson, President of FlyersRights.org and long-time aviation safety advocate, concluded, “The two 737 MAX crashes marked the end of FAA’s reign as the gold standard for aviation safety. The 737 MAX debacle revealed the FAA’s leadership capture by industry. Since March 2019, FAA and Boeing have repeatedly assured the public that there would be full transparency.”

“Boeing hid documents from the FAA and the airlines in order to get the 737 MAX originally certified as safe.  Now, despite numerous assurances by Boeing CEO Calhoun and FAA officials that there would be full transparency going forward, Boeing and FAA seek to keep all of its documents secret, and the FAA wants to keep all its testing data secret.”

“The FAA has declined to implement the independent Joint Authorities Technical Review (JATR) recommendations, and now the FAA seeks to cut off the last possible chance of independent review of the Boeing MAX,” Paul Hudson continued. “If Boeing and FAA get their way, the 737 MAX will be quickly ungrounded without review from independent experts, and without implementation of the JATR recommendations”

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