Chicago Sun-Times

Obama’s ex-Transporta­tion chief blasts Boeing, FAA for taking too long to ground jets

Former Transporta­tion secretary under Obama says Boeing, FAA too slow to ground 737 Max jets after crashes


Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administra­tion were accused Friday of being asleep at the switch when it came to grounding Boeing 737 Max jets involved in two crashes that killed 346 people in less than six months.

Republican Ray LaHood, the former Peoria congressma­n who served as transporta­tion secretary during Barack Obama’s first term, said Chicago-based Boeing should have grounded its own fleet of 737

Max jets the moment Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crashed into a farm field about 40 miles from Addis Ababa, killing all 157 passengers and crew.

If Boeing was slow to make that decision, Transporta­tion Secretary Elaine Chao should have made it for them — long before a parade of more than 40 countries around the world grounded the 737 Max jets, LaHood said in an interview Friday.

“They waited too long — absolutely. Totally . . . . When Africa, when Europe, when Asia decides to ground all their planes — we’ve always led. We have one of the best safety aviation records in the world. We should be leading. And we weren’t leading,” LaHood told the Sun-Times.

In reversing its early decision to allow jets to remain in the air, the FAA cited new satellite evidence that showed the movement of Flight 302 was similar to those of Lion Air Flight 610, which killed 189 passengers and crew in October after it crashed into the Java Sea off Indonesia.

“I’m shocked that Boeing didn’t see that. And I’m shocked that the FAA didn’t say ‘Ground the planes, let’s inspect them, give the flying public 100 percent assurance that they’re safe.’ It’ll be a better plane. And, it’ll help Boeing and help Boeing’s reputation for safety,” LaHood said.

Representa­tives for Boeing and the FAA could not be immediatel­y reached for comment about LaHood’s remarks.

LaHood stopped short of saying the safety of the flying public was put in jeopardy by the slow-paced U.S. response.

Speculatio­n about the cause of the Ethiopian Airlines crash has centered around faulty software, which the company is updating.

Boeing said this week it supports the decision to ground the planes as a precaution­ary step.

The company, which moved its corporate headquarte­rs to Chicago in 2001 with a $61 million incentive package from the city and state — also expressed “full confidence” in the safety of the 737 Max jet. The software upgrades are simply an effort to make the jet even safer, Boeing has said.

On Friday, LaHood likened the back-toback crashes involving the 737 Max jet to what happened on his watch as transporta­tion secretary.

He grounded the Boeing-made Dreamliner because there were “fires in the hull of the plane caused by lithium batteries.”

“The hull of the plane was so hot, it heated up these batteries. There was smoke in the cockpit and a couple of fires. As soon as that happened, I talked to the FAA Administra­tor Michael Huerta and I said, ‘I’m gonna ground these planes. We’ve got to find out what’s going on. We’ve got to find a fix for this,’” LaHood recalled.

 ?? JOE RAEDLE/GETTY IMAGES ?? A grounded American Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 is towed Wednesday to another location at Miami Internatio­nal Airport.
JOE RAEDLE/GETTY IMAGES A grounded American Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 is towed Wednesday to another location at Miami Internatio­nal Airport.
 ??  ?? Ray LaHood
Ray LaHood

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States