Tester to Boeing CEO: ‘I would walk before I would get on a Boeing 737 MAX’

Senator slams company for prioritizing profit over safety

Following the fatal crashes of two Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, U.S. Senator Jon Tester grilled Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg at today’s Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee hearing about the company’s failure to prioritize safety over profit, overlooking flaws in the jets’ design to get it on the market faster.

Last year, two Boeing 737 MAX jets crashed within six months, killing 346 people. In response, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) grounded all 737 MAX aircraft earlier this year. Tester took Muilenburg to task on the company’s failure to adequately inspect the safety of the aircraft or report the risks to FAA, demanding that Boeing be held accountable to the victims’ families.

“I would walk before I would get on a Boeing 737 MAX…” Tester said. “When issues like this happen, it costs your company huge. And so, you shouldn’t be cutting corners, and I see corners being cut and now this Committee has to do something about it.”

The FAA has delegated airplane approval authority to private companies since the 1950s, and it created the Organization Designation Authority (ODA) in the early 2000s so corporate engineers could oversee lower priority safety approvals, saving only critical issues for the FAA. However, recent reports suggest that ODA designees within Boeing often face pressure from managers and rarely interact with FAA officials.

When Boeing rushed to build its 737 MAX aircraft, ODA designees felt immense pressure to approve its design quickly. Boeing added an electric stall-prevention Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) to the jet in order to compensate for changes in aerodynamics and never disclosed this riskier system to FAA. This design flaw caused the two Boeing 737 MAX jets to crash.

Tester has been on the front lines of defending the safety of American consumers in the face of large, profit-driven companies. Earlier this year, he reintroduced his PICKET Act, which aims to hold corporations accountable during labor disputes, and he sponsored legislation to halt ag mergers in order to combat corporate consolidation that is draining American small towns. He has also been one of the top advocates for campaign finance reform, introducing a constitutional amendment to overturn the disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision.