October 29, 2019

Duckworth to Boeing: “You Haven’t Told Us the Whole Truth”

On one year anniversary of the Lion Air Flight 610 crash, Duckworth condemns Boeing executives about removal of safety features leading to two tragic crashes


[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), a general aviation pilot and combat Veteran, today condemned Boeing for the company’s decision to remove a critical safety function without adding an offsetting feature and its failure to inform pilots of the change or provide new training for them. Duckworth's criticism of the company’s decisions came during remarks addressed to Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg and John Hamilton, Vice President and Chief Engineer of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, at a Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Subcommittee on Aviation and Space Subcommittee hearing held today on the one year anniversary of the tragic Lion Air Flight 610 crash in Indonesia.

During the hearing Duckworth confronted Muilenburg and Hamilton by stating: “Time and time again, Boeing has not told the whole truth to this committee and the families of lost loved ones. You set those pilots up for failure. You knew in 2016 that this was happening and your team at Boeing decided not to fix it because of ‘well understood piloting techniques and procedures.’ The problem is that you added something else – you put in a system and you didn’t tell pilots about it. Boeing is the company that built the flying fortress that saved Europe – a historic aircraft that rescued the free world and yet, you knew about these problems and you continued to put the system into place. You’ve not told us the whole truth and these families are suffering because of it.”

Watch Duckworth’s full statement here.

As a pilot, Duckworth is alarmed that as early as 2016, Boeing knew that a single malfunctioning angle of attack sensor could result in the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) firing repeatedly, and yet Boeing decided not to raise the hazard classification from “major” to “hazardous” or “catastrophic,” which likely would have uncovered the MCAS vulnerability. Duckworth also remains troubled that neither Boeing, nor the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), appear to understand the gravity of Boeing’s decision to remove a long-standing safety function that every Boeing aircraft prior to the MAX relied on to enable pilots to quickly stop a nose down dive. Earlier today, Duckworth once again called on the FAA to publish a set of standardized best practices for how to ensure airlines and flight crews are complying with all federal safety standards and regulations. Last week, Duckworth joined Senate Commerce Committee Ranking Member Maria Cantwell (D-WA) in introducing legislation to implement aviation safety recommendations from multiple government agencies to help U.S. aviation industry address safety challenges posed by automation. During a Senate Commerce Committee hearing last March, she raised questions about a perceived lack of oversight into the development and federal approval of the Boeing 737 MAX series aircrafts.