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After 2 crashes and 346 fatalities

Debris of Ethiopean Airlines flight 302

On March 11, 2019, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issues a continued airworthiness notification to the international community with regard to the Boeing 737 MAX.

Crashes

This comes 1 day after an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 MAX crashes into the sea 6 minutes after departing Addis Ababa. And it comes despite the fact that a Lion Air Boeing 737 MAX crashed into the sea 4.5 months earlier on October 29, 2018.

The FAA declares that it “continues to review extensively all available data and aggregate safety performance from operators and pilots of the Boeing 737 MAX. Thus far, our review shows no systemic performance issues and provides no basis to order grounding the aircraft. Nor have other civil aviation authorities provided data to us that would warrant action.”

Grounding Boeing 737 MAX

However, China’s Civil Aviation Administration is the first regulator that grounds the Boeing 737 MAX on March 11, 2019. Many oversight institutions in other countries follow suit. But even on March 12 the FAA does not see any reason for grounding the plane. It does not take the grounding decision until March 13, 2019.

The FAA is underfunded and has not enough expertise to oversee the US aviation industry. We have written before that the FAA is too dependent on Boeing when it certifies aircraft. Hopefully, a new FAA initiative will remedy this problem.

Combining expertise

Chris Hart

Chris Hart

The FAA announces on April 2, 2019 it is establishing a Joint Authorities Technical Review (JATR). Chris Hart, former chairman of the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), will be the chair. The JATR will set up a team of experts from the FAA, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and international aviation authorities.

The JATR will carry out 2 tasks. First, it will conduct a comprehensive review of the certification of the automated flight control system on the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. And second, it will evaluate aspects of the 737 MAX automated flight control system, including its design and pilots’ interaction with the system.

Compliance and enhancements

By doing so it aims at determining the FAA’s compliance with all applicable regulations and to identify future enhancements that might be needed. Hopefully, the combination of expertise will make a difference. But this is only possible with sufficient funding.

Related: “A litmus test for Boeing” and “How dependent is the FAA on Boeing?

Tags: Boeing 737 MAX, FAA, Lion Air, Ethiopean Airlines

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