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FAA again under fire over MAX certification process

written by Hannah Dowling | February 25, 2021

A new report released by the US Department of Transportation Inspector General’s office has again criticised the Federal Aviation Administration for its lack of oversight in the certification of the Boeing 737 MAX.

The office of the Inspector General found “weaknesses” in the agency’s initial certification of the MAX, and stated the agency is still yet to adequately address and strengthen its processes for aircraft review.

The report argued that while the FAA didn’t deviate from an established protocol during the process, it also failed to clarify or understand the MCAS system, which was ultimately found to be at fault for the two fatal MAX crashes that killed 346 people.

“[The] FAA’s certification guidance does not adequately address integrating new technologies into existing aircraft models,” the report said.

“Second, [the] FAA did not have a complete understanding of Boeing’s safety assessments performed on MCAS until after the first accident.”

The DOT report also criticised the fact that the FAA’s Boeing Aviation Safety Oversight Office had limited resources, including just 47 employees.


According to the 63-page report, “much work remains” to address outstanding issues within the agency, including its “management and oversight weaknesses”.

The report offered 14 recommendations to improve the FAA’s certification process and oversight policies.

One such recommendation was to drastically change one of the FAA’s programs called the Organisation Designation Authorisation, in which the FAA can delegate portions of its aircraft certification process to third parties.

Boeing used ODA to certify the 737 MAX and earlier aircraft like the 787 and 777, meaning that it inspected its own planes under the FAA’s guidance.

“We confirmed in interviews with FAA and Boeing ODA representatives that there were instances where the same company engineer worked on a particular design and then approved the design as an ODA unit member,” the report said.

“This may not provide enough independence and could cause a conflict of duties for those unit members.”

In response to the full report, the FAA agreed to implement all 14 recommendations in the report and said it “has already made substantial progress towards implementing reforms that address some of your recommendations”.

Meanwhile, Boeing said it has “undertaken significant changes to reinforce our safety practices, and we have already made progress” on recommendations outlined in the report.


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