The US Senate is considering an overhaul on aircraft certification, as Boeing battles both safety recertification issues on its beleaguered 737 MAX, and now increasing manufacturing flaws on its 787 Dreamliner.
The US Senate Commerce Committee is set to hold a hearing that will consider proposing a bill to strengthen oversight of aircraft certification on 16 September, off the back of two fatal Boeing 737 MAX crashes that killed 346 people in total.
The proposed changes will seek to eliminate the plane maker’s ability to unduly influence the certification process, something that Boeing has long been accused of.
It is the largest step in ways of legislative reforms made since the two fatal crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia in 2018 and 2019, respectively, which have caused widespread outrage.
Since the incidents, calls have been made to permanently rectify how the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certifies new aircraft.
Republican Senate Commerce Committee chair Roger Wicker has introduced a bill, the FAA Accountability Enhancement Act, which includes the creation of an FAA Ombudsman office and an Office of Professional Responsibility.
This legislation reportedly works to “reorganise the Aviation Safety Whistleblower Investigation Office, and bolster misconduct investigations and discipline management to enhance accountability across the agency.”
It would essentially grant new whistleblower protections to planemaker workers, as well as provide for a new safety reporting system within the FAA, for employees to detail concerns anonymously.
This follows another proposal, introduced by Wicker in June, that would grant the FAA new powers over the long-standing practice of delegating certain certification tasks to aircraft manufacturer employees.
Under that proposed legislation, the FAA would have authority to hire or remove Boeing employees conducting FAA certification tasks, and allow the FAA to appoint its own safety advisers.
This all follows a slew of controversial incidents involving US aircraft manufacturer Boeing, notably a recent report, released in August, that showed FAA safety employees reported facing “strong external pressure” from industry.
Meanwhile, Boeing is still working to win regulatory approvals to return the 737 MAX to commercial service. The plane has been grounded worldwide since the second fatal crash in March 2019.
Boeing also currently faces lawsuits and an ongoing criminal probe into the aircraft, all while new manufacturing errors are brought to light on its widebody aircraft, the 787 Dreamliner.
The number of manufacturing flaws found in recent weeks in the 787 now totals four, including two issues in the fuselage of the aircraft, one in its horizontal stabiliser, and now most recently, an issue present in its vertical tail fin.