(Adds more details, Boeing statement)
By David Shepardson
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.” It prompted a letter from FAA Administrator Steve Dickson to Boeing Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg demanding an “immediate” explanation for the delay in turning over the documents.
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.
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 pilot has since left Boeing.
Boeing said in a statement the company “brought to the Committee’s attention a document containing statements by a former Boeing employee.”
One of the messages said the Boeing pilot had “basically lied” to regulators but added in parenthesis it was “(unknowingly).”
Boeing is revising the 737 MAX software to add more safeguards and require the MCAS system to receive input from two key sensors.
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.”
Earlier this week, Southwest Airlines Co delayed the return of the plane to its schedule until February.
Separately, the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee confirmed it will question 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