After many months of investigation and testing, the ill-fated Boeing 737 MAX will return to the skies soon. The FAA has cleared the Boeing 737 MAX to fly. So has the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). However, the memories of the Lion Air 737 MAX plane crash that killed 189 people in 2018 and the Ethiopian Airlines crash that killed 157 people linger. Carriers worry that when the plane goes back into service, some passengers will steer clear from routes that use it. At least one passenger advocacy group and several experts have raised questions about whether the 737 MAX should return to service now at all.
FlyersRights.org says the FAA has kept confidential documents that are critical to the decision of whether the 737 MAX is indeed safe. It disclosed it: “filed a Reply in its Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) case against the FAA. (Flyers Rights Education Fund v. FAA, (D.D.C. CV-19-3749 (CKK))” Its argument is that some of the documents about the decision to returned the 737 MAX have been unnecessarily been kept confidential. That means third party experts cannot evaluate the FAA decision.
The organization added: “FlyersRights.org argued that the FAA improperly invoked exemptions for trade secrets and proprietary information to shield entire documents from disclosure.” Safety, it reasons, should trump secrets. It implies that information for passengers should be ahead of confidential information, if, actually, that information needs to be kept confidential at all.
FlyersRights.org additionally points out that ten aviation experts said in sworn statements that information could not be confidential after promises from FAA Administrator Stephen Dickson and Boeing CEOs Dennis Muilenburg and David Calhoun that the process to evaluate the 737 MAX would be fully transparent.
The request is reasonable enough. The FAA and The Boeing Company (NYSE: BA) need to make a case beyond any dispute that the 737 MAX is safe to fly. There is no way to say what information is relevant to this evaluation when all the evaluation information has not been completely disclosed. Boeing made aircraft that crashed. It should, above all other parties involved in the 737 MAX return to service, want every part of the investigation on public display.