March 06, 2024

Duckworth Blasts Boeing’s Dangerous Pattern of Failing to Disclose 737 MAX Flight Deck Features to Pilots

At today’s hearing, Duckworth emphasized that the automatic opening of cockpit door in the recent Alaska Airlines incident is the third time Boeing has left MAX pilots in the dark


[WASHINGTON, DC] – Today, U.S. Senator and pilot Tammy Duckworth (D-IL)—a member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation (CST) and Chair of the Subcommittee on Aviation Safety, Operations and Innovation—called out Boeing’s dangerous and ongoing pattern of failing to disclose features on the 737 MAX flight deck to pilots, a pattern that has previously resulted in catastrophic consequences for passengers on-board. In today’s full committee hearing on the National Transportation Safety Board’s (NTSB) investigations report, Duckworth not only underscored how unsafe it is that pilots on Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 were not aware that the cockpit door on the 737 MAX 9 was designed to automatically open during a rapid pressurization event, but also raised concerns that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) all-too-often lets Boeing get away with this dangerous pattern. Full video of Senator Duckworth’s remarks can be found on YouTube and photos of today’s hearing can be found on Senator Duckworth’s website.

 “As a pilot, I cannot convey strongly enough how critical it is for the flight crew to be fully informed of the features on the flight deck,” said Duckworth. “An in-flight emergency is not the time for a flight crew to first learn about something like this.”

In her remarks, Duckworth underscored Boeing’s repeated pattern of leaving MAX pilots in the dark by citing the company’s previous failure to inform 737 MAX pilots about their flights included the presence of the safety critical Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS)—which brought down two 737 MAX 8 aircraft killing 346 people—as well as Boeing’s previous failure to disclose that the Angle of Attack (AOA) disagree alert was nonfunctioning on 737 MAX 8 aircraft.

“As we saw with MCAS, pilots not knowing about a flight deck feature can be deadly,” said Duckworth. “This is even more alarming considering this is the third time Boeing has kept information about MAX flight deck features from pilots—and FAA let Boeing get away with it the first two times. This has become a dangerous pattern which FAA needs to break.”

Following massive flight disruptions, runway incursions, near-misses and a ground stop of the FAA’s entire National Airspace System throughout FAA reauthorization negotiations, Duckworth has been a fierce, outspoken aviation safety advocate as the American people have reasonably questioned the reliability and resiliency of systems underlying U.S. air transportation. In January, Duckworth called on FAA to reject Boeing’s reckless petition requesting an exemption from safety certification standards to prematurely allow its 737 MAX 7 aircraft to enter commercial use before fixing a known safety flaw that could have catastrophic consequences on passenger safety. Just days after Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun met with Senator Duckworth personally and heard her arguments to put passenger and crew safety ahead of profits, Boeing withdrew its petition—crediting Duckworth’s efforts during the meeting as part of the reason the company changed course.

Duckworth is one of the authors of the bipartisan FAA Reauthorization Act of 2023 that passed through the CST committee, in which she successfully secured several provisions that would improve safety for consumers, expand the aviation workforce and enhance protections for travelers with disabilities. If signed into law, the bipartisan FAA reauthorization bill would extend FAA’s funding and authorities through the Fiscal Year 2028.