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US is investigating the FAA's approval of Boeing 737 Max aircraft: WSJ

Yen Nee Lee
  • The U.S. Department of Transportation launched a probe into whether there were lapses in the approval of Boeing 737 Max planes after a fatal crash in Indonesia last October, The Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday.
  • The probe is focused on a flight safety system suspected of playing a role in the crash of a Boeing 737 Max 8 operated by Lion Air.
  • Earlier this month, the same plane model operated by Ethiopian  Airlines crashed, killing all 157 on board.

The United States Department of Transportation is investigating whether there were lapses in the Federal Aviation Administration's approval of Boeing planes involved in two recent fatal crashes, The Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday.

The DOT probe was launched after a new Boeing 737 Max 8 operated by Indonesia's Lion Air crashed into the Java Sea in October last year, according to the Journal, which cited people familiar with the inquiry. None of the 189 people on board survived.

Earlier this month, on March 10, a second Boeing 737 Max 8 plane crashed shortly after take-off, killing all 157 people on board the Ethiopian Airlines plane . Ethiopian Transport Minister Dagmawit Moges said on Sunday that preliminary data retrieved from the plane's flight data recorder showed "a clear similarity" with the Indonesian incident.

The Journal reported in an update to the article that a grand jury in Washington issued a broad subpoena one day after the Ethiopian Airlines crash to at least one person involved in the development of the Boeing 737 Max. The subpoena, which reportedly involves a prosecutor from the Justice Department, was said to seek relevant documents, such as emails and other messages.

It is not clear whether the probe by the Justice Department is related to the DOT's investigation, according to the Journal report. The Justice Department did not immediately respond to CNBC's request for comment which was sent outside U.S. office hours.

Shares of Boeing BA , a component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, rose 1.52 percent to $378.99 on Friday but have fallen sharply from their 52-week high of $446.01 reached earlier this month.

The DOT investigation is concentrated on a flight safety system suspected of playing a role in the fatal crash in Indonesia , the Journal reported. The WSJ reported in November last year that Boeing failed to warn the airline industry about a potentially dangerous feature in its new flight-control system.

When contacted for comment on the Journal report, an FAA spokesman referred CNBC to the DOT instead. The transportation department did not immediately reply to CNBC's request for comment, which was sent outside U.S. office hours.

After two fatal crashes in less than six months involving the same plane model, authorities around the world — including the U.S., Europe, China and Indonesia — grounded Boeing 737 Max planes .

For the full report on the DOT's investigation, read The Wall Street Journal.

WATCH: CNBC's full interview with FAA Acting Administrator Daniel Elwell


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