Boeing crash victims’ families push for changes at FAA

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FILE – In this April 20, 2020, file photo, planes sit parked behind a sign marking Boeing property at a Boeing production plant in Renton, Wash. Relatives of people who died in one of the Boeing 737 Max crashes are renewing their push to replace top regulators who approved the plane. Several of the family members met Wednesday, May 5, 2021, with top officials of the Transportation Department. Hundreds more relatives and friends signed a letter demanding that President Joe Biden replace the head of the Federal Aviation Administration and other top FAA officials. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)

Family members who lost relatives in the second deadly crash of a Boeing 737 Max met with Transportation Department officials Wednesday to renew their push for the ouster of top federal aviation officials, whom they accuse of being too cozy with Boeing.

The families demanded that the Biden administration replace the head of the Federal Aviation Administration, Stephen Dickson, the FAA’s top safety official, Ali Bahrami, and two others.

Several hundred relatives and friends of passengers who died in the 2019 crash of an Ethiopian Airlines Max signed a letter to President Joe Biden and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg demanding the changes.

“The FAA has been, and continues to be, more interested in protecting Boeing and the aviation industry than safety,” they wrote.

Michael Stumo, whose daughter Samya died in the crash, said the officials — including Buttigieg’s chief of staff and the deputy FAA administrator — said they will review FAA personnel and recent reform legislation passed by Congress, but made no promises.

A Transportation Department spokesman said that senior officials expressed sympathy to the families, underscored the department’s commitment to safety and are “taking the family’s concerns very seriously.”

The family members and key lawmakers have questioned why the FAA did not order the grounding of Max jets after one crashed in Indonesia, five months before the Ethiopian crash. Investigators have focused on an automated flight-control system that pointed the nose of each plane down based on faulty sensors. In all, 346 people died.

Regulators grounded all Max jets around the world after the second crash. The FAA and most other countries — China being a notable exception — have cleared the plane to resume flying since late last year, after Boeing overhauled the flight system.

A new issue with faulty electrical grounding on recently built Max jets has caused about 100 of them to be idled again. The FAA is looking into how Chicago-based Boeing Co. failed to recognize that a change on the production line might create electrical problems.

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