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Flyers Rights appeals FAA 737 MAX ungrounding decision

FlyersRights appeals FAA 737 MAX ungrounding decision
FlyersRights appeals FAA 737 MAX ungrounding decision
Written by Harry S. Johnson

Flyers Rights filed a notice of appeal in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to challenge the FAA’s ungrounding decision for the 737 MAX. On November 18, 2020, the FAA lifted its ungrounding order after 20 months, assuring the public that the 737 MAX was finally made safe after 346 people were killed in two crashes within five months in 2018-2019. 

Paul Hudson, President of FlyersRights.org and one of four named plaintiffs, stated, “Boeing and FAA first declared the MAX safe in 2017, then again a second time after the first crash in October 2018, and then incredibly a third time after the second crash in March 2019. Now the FAA and Boeing have declared it safe a fourth time, based off of secret data and secret testing that is clearly legally inadequate.“

On the issue of secrecy, Paul Hudson commented, “After reneging on their multiple 2019 transparency pledges to Congress under oath, to the public, and to shareholders, the FAA and Boeing now insist that the public should trust them this time, all based on secret data and secret testing by anonymous employees. Meanwhile dozens of questions and concerns raised by independent aviation experts have gone unanswered. Pilot retraining has been roundly criticized as inadequate.”

A 2017 D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals decision held 3-0 that a federal agency cannot base a decision on secret data and testing (Flyers Rights Education Fund v. FAA, 16-1101 (D.C. Cir.)). That case also pertained to important safety issues, emergency evacuation testing and seat sizes. 

While the FAA alleges, without evidence, that the MAX, including the now-infamous and longtime-concealed Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), has been fixed, many are still left seeking action or disclosure by the FAA. The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee noted that Boeing did not fully cooperate with the Committee investigation, including by not turning over key documents. The Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Commerce Committee, Senator Wicker and Senator Cantwell, have also noted a lack of cooperation and transparency by Boeing and the FAA. FlyersRights is litigating a December 2019 Freedom of Information Act request for documents related to technical fixes and testing. The FAA, on behalf of Boeing, have either fully redacted or nearly fully redacted every document that has been turned over. 

The case number for the challenge to FAA’s ungrounding order is 20-1486. (U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit).

FlyersRights’ Freedom of Information Act case is Flyers Rights Education Fund v. FAA, 1:19-cv-03749-CKK (D.D.C.).