Report: Trump’s Shutdown Played Role in Delaying Crucial Boeing Fixes

Chris Kleponis/AP

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.

Update, 2:45 pm EST: After days of resistance, President Trump announced Wednesday afternoon that the Boeing 737 Max planes would be “grounded immediately.”


Despite mounting calls from lawmakers in both parties to temporarily ground Boeing 737 Max airplanes following two recent crashes, the Federal Aviation Administration on Wednesday once again expressed confidence in the aircraft, claiming that US officials had found “no basis” for barring flights.

The FAA’s resistance to grounding the planes comes amid an intensive effort by Boeing to court the Trump administration. 

Whatever the FAA’s motivations, another troubling aspect of the story is now emerging. A report Wednesday from the Wall Street Journal cites US officials appearing to suggest that the recent government shutdown—caused by President Donald Trump’s demand for money for a border wall—was partly responsible for delaying crucial software fixes for the Boeing aircraft. From the Journal:

A software fix to the MCAS flight-control feature by the FAA and Boeing had been expected early in January, but discussions between regulators and the plane maker dragged on, partly over differences of opinion about technical and engineering issues, according to people familiar with the details. Officials from various parts of Boeing and the FAA had differing views about how extensive the fix should be.

U.S. officials have said the federal government’s recent shutdown also halted work on the fix for five weeks.

The FAA concluded the delay was acceptable because its experts agreed with Boeing that there was no imminent safety threat, according to one person briefed on the discussions. The FAA also determined that steps taken after the Lion Air crash to inform pilots world-wide about the system’s operation were adequate to alleviate hazards.

The report comes just one day after the president warned that technological innovations were hampering the aviation safety. “I don’t know about you, but I don’t want Albert Einstein to be my pilot,” he tweeted.


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend