Boeing 737 Max 8: Transportation secretary asks for review of FAA certification

Trump Orders Boeing 737 Max 8, Max 9 Aircraft Grounded After Fatal Ethiopian Airlines Crash

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao has asked her agency’s internal watchdog to review the certification process for the Boeing plane model involved in a pair of deadly crashes in recent months in Ethiopia and Indonesia.

In a referral memo sent Tuesday to the Transportation Department’s inspector general, Chao requested “an audit to compile an objective and detailed factual history of the activities that resulted in the certification of the Boeing 737-MAX 8 aircraft.”

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“Safety is the top priority of the Department, and all of us are saddened by the fatalities resulting from the recent accidents involving two Boeing 737-MAX 8 aircraft in Indonesia and Ethiopia,” Chao said.

Lion Air Flight 610 crashed in October shortly after takeoff from Jakarta, Indonesia, killing 189 people. Less than five months later, on March 10, Ethiopian Air Flight 302 crashed shortly after takeoff from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, killing 157 people.

Investigations into the crashes are ongoing and authorities worldwide have grounded Boeing 737 Max aircraft.

Similarities between the two flights points to possible issues with the plane's stall-prevention system, called MCAS, according to The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.

The Times reported the automated system "may have engaged based on erroneous data, creating a struggle for the pilots who were trying to maintain control" during October's Lion Air crash.

The Journal reported officials from the Transportation and Justice departments were investigating how Boeing developed the plane. Citing an unidentified source, the newspaper reported the Transportation Department's Inspector General's Office was also investigating whether the Federal Aviation Administration "took any shortcuts compromising safety" in its approval of the aircraft.

Officials with the FAA issued certification for the Boeing 737 Max 8 in March 2017, Chao said.

Authorities continue to investigate.