- Changes will be made to how the Federal Aviation Administration certifies aircraft to fly, officials will tell Congress on Wednesday, according to multiple news outlets.
- The FAA gets aircraft manufacturers to sign off on their own work in the FAA’s name as part of a policy mandated by Congress that has come under increased scrutiny after two deadly crashes.
- The acting head of the FAA and the inspector general at the Transportation Department are expected to tell Congress that changes will come to the FAA’s “oversight approach” and new criteria will be introduced by July.
- But the FAA’s acting head is also expected to defend close collaboration between the FAA and manufacturers, as well as how the 737 Max’s software was overseen.
- A 2012 watchdog report said FAA employees felt their management had “too close a relationship with Boeing officials” and did not always support efforts “to hold Boeing accountable.”
The Federal Aviation Administration is planning to rewrite its rules for airline safety, amid scrutiny of past decisions to delegate large parts of its oversight rule to Boeing itself, according to multiple reports.
The decisions are being seen in a new light after two deadly plane crashes involve Boeing’s 737 Max jet, which resulted in it being grounded in the US and much of the rest of the world.
Officials from the FAA and the Transportation Department are expected to tell the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation’s Subcommittee on Aviation on Wednesday that it will make changes to the system for airline certification, which currently allows manufacturers to run some safety checks on their products in the FAA’s name.
Calvin Scovel, inspector general at the Transportation Department, is due to testify that changes are coming to the current system, according to prepared remarks obtained by CNN.
The FAA entrusts aviation manufacturers to certify that their own systems comply with air safety regulations.
That policy was first ordered by Congress in 2003 as part of efforts to speed up the certification process and reduce costs.
The FAA delegated authority to Boeing in 2009, and now allows more than 80 aviation companies to certify their own products’ safety, according to The Washington Post.
Increasing scrutiny after the two fatal crashes will bring some changes to this system, according to prepared remarks reported by CNN, the Associated Press (AP), and The New York Times.
- REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri
Scovel said in his prepared remarks: “By July 2019, FAA plans to introduce a new process that represents a significant change in its oversight approach.”
“For example, FAA’s new process will include identifying system elements and developing new evaluation criteria.”
Daniel Elwell, the acting administrator of the FAA, is expected to testify that the agency should develop new criteria for how it oversees airline construction, according to his prepared remarks obtained by The Associated Press.
Elwell said in his prepared remarks that the agency’s “oversight approach needs to evolve,” but is expected to defend close collaboration between aircraft makers and regulators.
He said that the process “consistently produced safe aircraft designs for decades.”
And he said that the process of delegating had been “critical to the success and effectiveness of the certification process” while saying that the FAA was “directly involved” in reviewing the safety of the 737 Max’s software, according to his remarks obtained by The New York Times.
Scovel wrote that certification will have to be closely monitored: “While revamping FAA’s oversight process will be an important step, continued management attention will be key to ensure the agency identifies and monitors the highest-risk areas of aircraft certification.”
The hearing will challenge America’s standing as the model for aviation safety regulation as lawmakers probe the approval process for the Boeing 737 Max, which was involved in two deadly crashes in less than five months.
The hearing comes two days after the Department of Transportation announced the establishment of an expert Special Committee to review how the FAA certifies new aircraft, including the Boeing 737 Max.
Congress is likely to scrutinize Elwell on whether the FAA has given Boeing too much power to regulate itself, The New York Times reported.
A watchdog report from 2012 raised concerns about the FAA’s certification of Boeing planes, and what appeared to be a close relationship between some FAA officials and Boeing.
- REUTERS/Beawiharta/File Phot
The report was by the Office of the Inspector General, a watchdog within the Department of Transportation.
It analysed the Transport Airplane Directorate, a sub-agency of the FAA which certifies new Boeing jets.
It found that FAA employees viewed their management as “having too close a relationship with Boeing officials.” They said that managers had not always supported employee efforts “to hold Boeing accountable.”
Some employees feared retaliation for their efforts, the report said.
Elwell will tell Congress that FAA engineers have tested the update in a simulator and a real plane, the AP reported.
Peter DeFazio, the House Transportation chairman, said that all of the planes should remain grounded until an independent review of the fix is done. He said that the proposal was not a “no confidence” vote in the FAA, but said that the review is necessary to reassure the public.