Congress grills Chao, FAA on Boeing oversight after recent crashes

A bipartisan group of lawmakers pushed for answers on Capitol Hill on Wednesday. Senators questioned Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao on what aircraft safety measures her department is taking after the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max crash earlier this month. She told senators her agency will look at Boeing's relationship with federal regulators that certified the 737 Max airplanes now grounded around the world.

In a separate hearing, FAA Inspector General Calvin Scovel said changes are coming to the certification process that relies on Boeing's own employees, a program called Organization Designation Authorization (ODA). He said the FAA plans to revamp its ODA oversight process by the end of July.

Chao said she has asked Scovel to compile a detailed factual history of the certification process of the Boeing 737 Max that crashed.

In October 2018, a Lion Air flight leaving Indonesia crashed, killing 189 people. Five months later, 157 passengers died in the Ethiopian Airlines crash. Both planes lacked safety features that Boeing sold separately.

FAA Acting Administrator Daniel Elwell said the aircraft will stay grounded indefinitely.

"The 737 Max will return to service for U.S. carriers only when the FAA's analysis of the facts and technical data indicate that it is appropriate to do so," Elwell said.

Boeing, for its part, said it doesn't need to change how it manufactures its airplanes, even as the company previewed a safety software fix and new training for the 737 Max.

"We are working with customers and regulators around the world to restore faith in our industry and also to reaffirm our commitment to safety and to earning the trust of the flying public," Mike Sinnett, the vice president of product strategy for Boeing, said.

Boeing also announced Wednesday that it will retrofit its 737 fleet with a previously optional feature that warns pilots when two sensors produce different readings.

But that won't be enough for Republican and Democratic senators who are contemplating legislation that would require manufacturers to make all their safety features standard.