FAA blasted over 737 MAX redesign approval

AFP
October 13, 2019

Washington: US aviation regulators came in for heavy criticism over lapses in certifying the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, which has been grounded following two crashes that killed 346 people.The report,...

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Washington: US aviation regulators came in for heavy criticism over lapses in certifying the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, which has been grounded following two crashes that killed 346 people.

The report, authored by a team of international aviation regulators, said the US Federal Aviation Administration lacked the necessary manpower and expertise to evaluate key flight-handling changes on the plane and also delegated too much to Boeing staff, hamstringing its ability to ensure the plane was safe.

The report focused in particular on the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, a flight-handling mechanism that is believed to be at the center of both crashes. Certification documents submitted by Boeing were “fragmented” and failed to evaluate the system in “a complete and integrated,” said the report by the Joint Authorities Technical Review, which was put together in March after the second of the two deadly crashes.

“Aircraft functions should be assessed, not in an incremental and fragmented manner but holistically at the aircraft level,” the report said.

The report also painted a troublesome picture of the FAA’s “Organization Designation Authorization” program, or ODA, in which the agency delegated elements of the certification to Boeing.

Critics have derided this process as “self-certification” and characterized it as a reflective of a too-cozy relationship between Boeing and the FAA.

The report said the FAA’s ability to oversee the process was hindered by “resource shortfalls” and the “limited” experience and knowledge engineers had of technical aspects of the 737 MAX program.

“With adequate FAA engagement and oversight, the extent of the delegation does not in itself compromise safety,” the report said.

“However, in the 737 MAX program, the FAA had inadequate awareness of the MCAS function which, coupled with limited involvement, resulted in an inability of the FAA to provide an independent assessment of the adequacy of the Boeing proposed certification activities associated with MCAS.”


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