FAA won't rule out fining Boeing over 737 Max safety disclosures

Key Points
  • FAA Administrator Steve Dickson made his comments at a House hearing about the 737 Max certification.
  • The agency has criticized Boeing for not disclosing problems with a safety light to airlines.
  • The FAA is probing Boeing's production line in Washington state after complaints from an ex-Boeing manager.
Stephen Dickson, administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), speaks during a House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee hearing on the Boeing Co. 737 Max aircraft in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019.
Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The Federal Aviation Administration could seek penalties against Boeing for failing to make disclosures about the 737 Max, the agency's chief said at a House hearing Wednesday about the beleaguered plane.

The FAA criticized the manufacturer earlier this year for not disclosing problems with a safety light that would alert pilots when sensors onboard provided conflicting information.

The 737 Max has been grounded since mid-March after two fatal crashes killed 346 people. The FAA, which first certified the planes as safe for the flying public in 2017, is under fire for its approval and for not grounding the jets after the first crash. An internal FAA review dated after the first crash, a Lion Air flight in 2018, found more fatal crashes of the planes were possible but it allowed the planes to keep flying until a second 737 Max went down in March.

"My highest priority is to make sure something like this never happens again," FAA Administrator Steve Dickson said at the hearing before the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

Dickson, who was sworn in for a five-year term at the helm of the agency in August, said he has not yet made a decision on whether to seek a fine against the manufacturer, but added that he has "expressed my disappointment" with Boeing's leadership.

"I reserve the right to take further action and we very well may do that," Dickson said.

Boeing did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Lawmakers on Wednesday are also hearing from a former Boeing manager who raised safety concerns to both the manufacturer and federal safety officials about the breakneck production pace at the planemaker's production line in Washington state.

FAA officials said at the hearing that they are probing those concerns and have interviewed several Boeing employees regarding those warnings.

"You have my commitment that we are looking into those problems," Dickson said.

On Friday, the FAA said it was seeking to fine Boeing nearly $4 million, saying the company failed to stop the installation of faulty wing parts on some older 737 jetliners.