Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, the hero pilot who captivated the world after he landed a plane on the Hudson River lashed out at the Federal Aviation Administration for allowing Boeing to conduct its own certification inspections on the airplanes it manufactures. According to a report in the Daily Mail, Sullenberger wrote an article that was highly critical of the federal aviation watchdog for creating an “inherent conflict of interest” by allowing Boeing to inspect its own airplanes. The pilot, now retired from commercial flying but working as a safety advocate, further opined that such a system could well have contributed to the two fatal crashes of Boeing 737 Max 8 planes that resulted in all those aboard perishing.
“Boeing and the FAA have been found wanting in this ugly saga that began years ago but has come home to roost with two terrible fatal crashes, with no survivors,” Sullenberger wrote.
Sullenberger, who landed a disabled jet on the Hudson River and saved all 155 people aboard went on to criticize the FAA and ultimately the administrations of not only President Donald Trump but also former President Barack Obama and others for leaving the agency being far too understaffed and underfunded to properly oversee the entire U.S. aviation industry.
“There simply are not nearly enough FAA employees to do this important work in-house.”
As a result, the FAA allows airplane manufacturers to conduct their own inspections for certifying their aircraft, a system whose reliability has been called into question by not only Sullenberger but many others as well.
And Sullenberger didn’t just single out the government overseers of the industry. He also didn’t hold back when it came to criticizing aircraft manufacturing giant Boeing, leveling some harsh words at the Chicago-based corporation. He noted that the company’s presumed “intense competitive pressure” to get the airplane completed and on the market may have led to them taking shortcuts – shortcuts that seem to have turned deadly.
“When flight testing revealed an issue with meeting the certification standards, the company developed a fix…but did not tell airline pilots about it,” Sullenberger wrote.
“In mitigating one risk, Boeing seems to have created another, greater risk.”
Sullenberg went on to say that the FAA and Boeing both failed to properly assess the risks to the flying public after the first crash of a 737 Max 8 when Lion Air flight 610 crashed in Indonesia in October 2018. Instead of facing the problem head-on, Sullenberger alleges, Boeing instead delayed talks with the FAA over what potential alterations might be required.
The former pilot went on to note that following the second Max 8 crash in Ethiopia in February, Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg reached out to Trump to try and prevent the planes from being grounded in the U.S. as they had already been in numerous other countries.
“The new fix still has not been fielded, nearly five months after Lion Air,” Sullenberger wrote. “It almost certainly could have been done sooner, and should have been.”