Federal regulators seeks to fine Boeing $19.68 million for setting up sensors that the agency states might not have been compatible with a system pilots use to observe instrument readings.
The sensors make it possible for pilots to utilize “heads-up” systems that display altitude, airspeed and other details on a glass screen in front of them so they don’t have to look down, little far from the windshield.
The Federal Aviation Administration notified Boeing of the proposed penalty on Friday and gave the company 30 days to pay or reply to the accusations. The sensors at issue were installed on almost 800 planes.
Boeing said it has worked with the FAA. It stated the matter involves documentation of components and is not a safety issue.
The FAA stated the sensors were set up in heads-up display systems on 618 Boeing 737 NG planes between June 2015 and April 2019 and on 173 Boeing 737 Max jets from July 2017 until March 2019.
The heads-up systems involved are created by Rockwell Collins. Boeing failed to confirm that the sensors were listed as interchangeable, according to Friday’s letter from a lawyer in FAA’s enforcement division close to Seattle to Lynne Hopper, Boeing’s vice president of engineering for commercial airplanes.
The FAA stated the sensors had not been tested or authorized as being compatible with the Rockwell Collins guidance systems, and that Boeing had apparently breached federal regulations and its own policies.
The FAA has come under heavy criticism from Congress for what some lawmaker view as lax oversight of Boeing. During the previous week, the House Transportation Committee stated in a scathing report that the FAA “failed in its oversight responsibilities to ensure the safety of the traveling public” when it authorized the 737 Max, which was later grounded after two crashes killed 346 people.
Since December, the FAA has proposed over $9 million in penalties against Boeing for setting up nonconforming parts on the wings of Max and NG jets. New FAA Administrator Stephen Dickson has also pushed back against what he observed as improper pressure on his agency to allow the Max return to flying soon.
The recent FAA action could expose Boeing to more fines. In December 2015, the company settled about a dozen FAA accusations by paying a $12 million fine. It agreed to pay up to a further $24 million if it committed other violations of FAA regulations in the following five years.
The fines are one of the biggest that the FAA has levied. However, they are not too significant in comparison with Boeing’s financial losses associated to the Max crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia. In January, Boeing stated costs associated with fixing the Max and compensating airlines and passengers’ families would be about $18 billion.