- The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has been criticised for previously approving and vouching for the safety of Boeing’s 737 Max before two deadly crashes.
- The agency now wants to dramatically change the way it certifies planes.
- Stephen Dickson, the FAA chief, told The Wall Street Journal he wants to prioritise pilot behaviour in its certification process, and have more communication.
- The FAA previously outsourced a lot of its approval work to plane makers. Changing this could cost the federal government an extra $US10 billion, The Journal reported.
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The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) could completely overhaul its plane-certification process after disastrous crashes of Boeing’s 737 Max, The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday, citing the agency head.
It follows criticism of the FAA, which outsourced many of its regulatory functions to manufacturers like Boeing, inviting accusations that it was insufficiently rigorous in its scrutiny.
Stephen Dickson told the Journal on Sunday he wants to increase the FAA’s involvement in the development of new aircraft by having the agency and manufacturers communicate more often during the design process.
“The current approach is you’re answering all these questions and then it’s, ‘OK FAA, here’s my final exam. Grade my paper,'” Dickson told The Journal.
“That’s the transactional approach. The holistic approach is more of a dialogue as you go through the process.”
The FAA also wants to prioritise “human factors,” in its certification process, The Journal cited Dickson as saying. This might include things like the speed at which pilots can realistically react in various emergencies.
“That probably needed to happen some time ago,” Dickson said, according to The Journal.
Dickson remained vague on his proposals for any change in the FAA’s plane-certification process. He has also told aides that he won’t discuss specifics until the 737 Max returns to service, the newspaper said, citing people familiar with the conversations.
The FAA has come under criticism in recent months for vouching for Boeing’s 737 Max jet during its approval process, before it was involved in two deadly plane crashes in October 2018 and March 2019.
The FAA previously outsourced much of its approval process to Boeing employees, which meant the company was effectively in charge of certifying its own work.
However, reversing the FAA’s process of self-certification would cost some $US10 billion in additional FAA funding from the government over multiple years, the Journal reported, citing Dickson’s predecessor Michael Huerta.
The 737 Max’s Manoeuvring Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), an automated anti-stall software, has been blamed in both crashes.
The pilots struggled before the crashes with the system, which erroneously forced the plane’s nose down against their instructions.
Internal messages from 2016, published last month, showed two Boeing employees saying that MCAS had caused problems during flight simulations, and that one had unintentionally misled the FAA about the process.
One of the employees, Mark Forkner, had also asked the FAA in 2016 to omit mentions of the MCAS from the pilot manual for the 737 Max, and the FAA had agreed to do so.
All 737 Max jets have been grounded worldwide for the past eight months. Boeing has been pushing the FAA to speed up the testing and allow early deliveries of the plane, but the FAA has so far resisted the company’s pressures.
Boeing had previously hoped to return the 737 Max to service in January 2020, pending approval, but multiple airlines – including American, Southwest, and United – have pulled the 737 Max from their schedules until at least March 2020.
American Airlines flight attendants are also “begging” not to work on the 737 Max when it returns to service, a union representing them said last week.
Boeing also faces a House investigation into how it designed and marketed the 737 Max to airlines, as well as multiple lawsuits from victims’ families over compensation and airlines over lost revenues.
- Read more:
- Boeing is pressuring the FAA to clear the 737 Max to fly sooner, even as some airline staff beg not to be put back on it
- Ethiopian Airlines buried the remains of crash victims – but didn’t give families enough notice to attend the funeral
- New report reveals why Boeing’s 737 Max has taken so long to return to service
- Here are all the investigations and lawsuits that Boeing and the FAA are facing after the 737 Max crashes killed almost 350 people
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