By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) chief Steve Dickson told a U.S. congressional panel that Boeing Co has "more work to do" as the planemaker continues to face scrutiny following two fatal 737 MAX crashes in the space of five months in 2018-2019 that killed 346 people.
"Boeing is not the same as it was two years ago but they have more to work to do," Dickson told the Senate Commerce Committee on Wednesday. Boeing did not immediately comment. "We have reset the relationship with Boeing in no uncertain terms."
Dickson said the FAA is delegating fewer responsibilities to Boeing for aircraft certification. He told the committee the FAA is "demanding more transparency" from manufacturers "and evaluating key assumptions prior to delegating functions in certain areas.”
The FAA is currently scrutinizing a number of issues involving Boeing airplanes.
Boeing agreed to a deferred prosecution agreement with the Justice Department in January including $2.5 billion in fines and compensation stemming from the 737 MAX crashes.
The crashes "exposed fraudulent and deceptive conduct by employees of one of the world’s leading commercial airplane manufacturers," the Justice Department said.
Congress in December approved legislation boosting FAA oversight of aircraft manufacturers, requiring disclosure of critical safety information and providing new whistleblower protections.
Committee chair Maria Cantwell said she plans a hearing and a report on aviation whisteblowers before the end of the year.
The reform law "was a clear course correction. It said that we needed to have stronger FAA oversight, the people in place to do that job, and to hold manufacturers accountable," Cantwell said, adding "Make no mistake, the manufacturer has its own responsibilities here. And we will also hold them accountable."
An FAA survey released in August 2020 found some safety employees reported facing "strong" external pressure from industry and raised alarms the agency does not always prioritize air safety.
Dickson said on Wednesday he has "made it clear internally that we always do the right thing when it comes to safety — and that I have the workforce’s back on that."
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Marguerita Choy)
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