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Boeing 737 Max: Transportation Department launching independent review of FAA's approval process

Indonesian airline cancels $5B Boeing order

The U.S. Department of Transportation will establish a "special committee" of outside experts to independently review the FAA's certification of the Boeing 737 Max, amid questions that have arisen about the relationship between Boeing and the FAA. The committee's findings and recommendations will be submitted to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and the FAA administrator.

The announcement comes ahead of Chao's scheduled appearance before the Senate Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies subcommittee budget hearing on Wednesday morning. Federal authorities have instructed Boeing and FAA employees to retain documents relating to the plane's approval process, which by design relies on manufacturers like Boeing to self-police that it's met FAA requirements.

Chao's team is preparing for a grilling from concerned lawmakers, and Chao said in a statement, "This review by leading outside experts will help determine if improvements can be made to the FAA aircraft certification process."

Acting FAA Administrator Dan Elwell is also expected to testify Wednesday in front of a different Senate subcommittee at a hearing on aviation safety. This is the first time both Chao and Elwell will be appearing before Congress since the crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 earlier this month.

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Boeing welcomed the announcement of the committee, releasing a statement Monday that said, "We look forward to working with the Special Committee to advance our shared goal of an aviation industry that is safe and trusted by the flying public. Safety is our top priority when we design, build, deliver and maintain Boeing aircraft."

And its statement went on to say that it has worked to make flying safe by engaging "with the DOT, FAA, our airline customers as well as other aviation community partners for decades."

Retired Air Force General Darren McDew and Captain Lee Moak, who is the former president of the Air Line Pilots Association, will serve as interim co-chairs of the special committee while other members are appointed.

Boeing tells airlines to sign up for software update

Separately, in another sign Boeing is preparing to release its software updates for the grounded 737 Max, the company notified Max owners to sign up for and place orders for software update, so it can be delivered once the update is approved.

Boeing vice president of communications Gordon Johndroe said in a statement that Max owners must "place a free of charge order through our standard orders system." He added, "The update will only be released on certification but placing an order is a standard step to start the delivery process for any software or hardware change."