Boeing-FAA Ties Still Flawed After 737 MAX Reforms
By Doug Cameron
U.S. aviation regulators need to strengthen their oversight of
aircraft safety even after reforms undertaken in the wake of the
two Boeing Co. 737 MAX crashes that claimed 346 lives, a government
report has concluded.
An examination of the certification of the MAX also revealed
that Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration still have a
flawed relationship, which could hinder identifying future safety
challenges, the Transportation Department's inspector general said
in a second report on the matter.
The FAA has agreed to implement 14 recommendations in the
report, including how it addresses innovations introduced to
existing aircraft designs and improved communication with Boeing.
The agency received a draft version of the report in December.
The warning over ongoing issues comes during changes in global
regulation of the aviation industry that include less reliance on
approvals in an aircraft's country of manufacture.
Boeing has had to push back the introduction of its newest
jetliner, the 777X, partly because of extended certification issues
related to the wide-body plane, the company said last month.
Many of the problems in the certification of the MAX, the latest
iteration of a 50-year old aircraft design, relate to how the FAA
delegates oversight to Boeing and other aircraft manufacturers, a
process known as Organization Delegation Authorization, or ODA,
according to the report.
The inspector general's report said the process wasn't
adequately independent, referencing documents regarding regulatory
staff embedded in the company "feeling pressure" from Boeing
management when overseeing aircraft programs.
"It is not clear that FAA's current oversight structure and
processes can identify future high-risk safety concerns at the
ODA," the report said.
Boeing hosted 47 FAA staff involved in safety oversight of its
aircraft programs, and the relationship between them, the company
and the agency formed the bulk of concerns expressed in the
The report said the FAA relies on Boeing "to identify which
changes from previous aircraft models are significant."
Boeing said it had made organizational, training and compliance
changes after cooperating with the latest review. "We have
undertaken significant changes to reinforce our safety practices,
and we have already made progress on several of the recommendations
outlined in the final report," the company said.
The latest findings reiterate those in the initial report in
June that safety fixes after the first 737 MAX crash in October
2018 became snarled in FAA delays and repetitive analyses, wasting
any chance U.S. regulators had to prevent the second fatal accident
in March 2019.
One key issue is that FAA procedures didn't adequately address
how to combine new technology onto existing aircraft. The report
said that led the agency to "a significant misunderstanding" until
after the first accident of the automated MCAS flight control
system linked to both MAX crashes.
A final review by the inspector general will focus on FAA
actions taken during the decision to ground the aircraft and return
it to service.
Write to Doug Cameron at email@example.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
February 24, 2021 20:44 ET (01:44 GMT)
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