The Department of Transportation is forming a special committee to review the Federal Aviation Administration’s process for certifying new aircraft, coming as the agency is under fire over its approval of Boeing’s 737 Max jets that were involved in two fatal crashes in less than five months.
The panel will include retired Air Force Gen. Darren McDew and Capt. Lee Moak, the former president of the Air Line Pilots Association, who will both serve as co-chairs, the agency announced on Monday.
“Safety is the number one priority of the Department, and this review by leading outside experts will help determine if improvements can be made to the FAA aircraft certification process,” Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said in a statement.
Chao previously launched an investigation into the FAA certification process, and Daniel Elwell – the agency's top acting official – is expected to appear before a Senate panel this week. The White House recently nominated former Delta executive and current Amtrak CEO Stephen Dickson to be the FAA's permanent chief.
The Justice Department has also reportedly opened a criminal probe into the approval of the Max jets.
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The grounding of Boeing’s Max fleet – an update to the Chicago-based manufacturer’s most popular jet – is expected to continue to lead to flight cancellations for top carriers like Southwest Airlines and American Airlines.
The move by the U.S. and other top nations across the globe to halt operations of the aircraft came after a Max jet operated by Ethiopian Airlines crashed earlier this month, five months after a Lion's Air crash involving the plane.
Boeing is working on a software update to address, among other things, the so-called "angle of attack" sensor – the mechanism intended to prevent stalling on takeoff and that is thought to have led to the Ethiopian Air and Lion Air crashes.