The Senate Commerce Committee is investigating whistle-blower claims that Federal Aviation Administration safety inspectors who evaluated Boeing’s 737 Max airplane were not appropriately trained or certified.
On Tuesday, the committee chairman, Senator Roger Wicker, Republican of Mississippi, sent a letter to the F.A.A. demanding information about whether the agency had investigated those allegations or taken any action to remedy the problem.
After the fatal crashes of two 737 Max jets in less than five months, there is new scrutiny on the regulator’s close relationship with Boeing. The F.A.A. relies on Boeing employees to help certify the airworthiness of its aircraft, a system that critics say creates conflicts of interest.
In a hearing last week, lawmakers pressed Elaine L. Chao, the transportation secretary, and Daniel K. Elwell, the acting administrator of the F.A.A., about federal oversight of aviation safety. Federal prosecutors are investigating the development of the Max plane, which included new software that may have contributed to the fatal accidents.
“The committee is concerned that such potential lack of certification and training” could have influenced inspectors’ evaluation of the software, Mr. Wicker said. The inspectors may have been part of a team that determined the level of training the pilots needed to fly the Max, according to the letter. Boeing has come under fire from pilots, who say they were not informed that the new software existed until after the Lion Air crash in Indonesia in October. The 737 Max planes were grounded around the world after an Ethiopian Airlines crash last month.
The committee believes that the F.A.A. may have been informed of the whistle-blower allegations in August and recently completed an investigation of the claims. Mr. Wicker gave the F.A.A. two weeks to respond to the request for information.