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EXCLUSIVE-Boeing 2016 internal messages suggest employees may have misled FAA on 737 MAX - sources

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WASHINGTON, Oct 18 (Reuters) - Boeing Co turned over instant messages from 2016 between two employees that suggest the airplane maker may have misled the Federal Aviation Administration about a key safety system on the grounded 737 MAX, sources briefed on the matter said.

The FAA confirmed Friday that Boeing told it a day earlier about internal messages it had discovered “some months ago” that characterize “certain communications with the FAA during the original certification of the 737 MAX in 2016.”

The FAA said it found the messages “concerning” and “is reviewing this information to determine what action is appropriate.”

Sources told Reuters the Boeing internal messages raised questions about the performance of the so-called MCAS anti-stall system that has been tied to the two fatal crashes in five months. Boeing declined to immediately comment.

The messages are between the MAX’s then-chief technical pilot and another Boeing pilot, the sources said, and raised questions about the MCAS’s performance in the simulator.

The FAA reiterated that it is “following a thorough process, not a prescribed timeline, for returning the Boeing 737 MAX to passenger service. The agency will lift the grounding order only after we have determined the aircraft is safe.”

Separately, the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee confirmed it will question Boeing Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg at an Oct. 29 hearing, one day before a House of Representatives panel is scheduled to question him.

Boeing shares fell 3.5% after the Reuters report, helping to drag down the Dow Jones industrial average to a session low.

Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Richard Chang