In a sign of how the credibility of the Federal Aviation Administration has been undermined in recent weeks, House Transportation Committee Chairman Peter A. DeFazio on Tuesday said "independent, third-party" reviewers must confirm that software and other fixes for Boeing's 737 Max 8 jets are sufficient before the FAA allows the planes to fly again.
A Southwest Airlines 737-MAX8 aircraft made an emergency landing at Orlando International Airport Tuesday afternoon, the FAA confirmed to the Miami Herald, but not for the software problem believed to be involved in two crashes within five months.
Boeing pilots later conducted a certification flight with the FAA on March 12, two days after the Ethiopian Airlines crash, to demonstrate to regulators that the updated software met certification requirements, the official said.
In a report by CNBC, the Southwest Flight 8701 had taken off from the airport before 3pm en route Carlifornia for storage but returned to Orlando International Airport where it landed safely.
The jet is one of hundreds of Boeing aircraft grounded around the world while investigators work to find the cause of an Ethiopian Airlines crash that killed 157 people earlier this month. Should it do so, the MCAS system automatically trims the nose down, in an effort to avoid a stall.More news: Canada to assess Boeing 737 MAX airworthiness without US
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"While revamping FAA's oversight process will be an important step, continued management attention will be key to ensure the agency identifies and monitors the highest-risk areas of aircraft certification", Scovel wrote.
The plane is now on its way to an Orlando maintenance facility for review.
The gathering Wednesday will also serve as counter-programming for a highly anticipated Senate hearing in Washington, DC, where lawmakers are expected to press regulators for changes to the aircraft certification process in the wake of the two crashes.
"The traveling public needs assurances that the FAA will only recertify the aircraft for flight if and when the FAA, outside safety and technical experts, and pilots agree the aircraft is safe to fly", DeFazio (D-Ore.) said. USA airlines are allowed to shuttle the planes but can not carry passengers. On March 10, an Ethiopian Airlines flight to Kenya crashed six minutes after takeoff, killing 149 passengers and eight crew. It's likely to be months before investigators in Indonesia and Ethiopia issue conclusions on what caused the accidents. However, since the jet's position sensor was feeding erroneous data to the system, instead of preventing stalling, the MCAS was gradually sending the plane into an uncontrolled dive.
The FAA says it's investigating but it appears the emergency was not related to anti-stall software suspected in the two fatal crashes. "I think that raises concerns", Cruz told Yahoo Finance in an interview ahead of a Senate subcommittee hearing on Wednesday examining the crash in Ethiopia and one in Indonesia last October. Both the software fix and the training have to be approved by the Federal Aviation Administration.