How the FAA has lost its leadership

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Until March 10, 2019, the FAA was the most prestigious certification organisation in the world. It has set the standard for many of today’s regulations on the planet.

Seven months of disturbing revelations

Since March 10, 2019, the revelations about the sloppy certification of MAX have followed one another at a steady pace. The surge of information has damaged Boeing’s reputation, which is now severely damaged in the United States.

Essentially, the revelations taught us that Boeing had put pressure on its engineers to get the B737MAX certified under the same type certificate as its predecessor. Boeing wanted the transition costs from B737NG to MAX to be virtually non-existent. This goal was an imperative that everyone had to comply with. For this reason, the risk assessment of the MCAS was incorrect. Boeing even failed to provide the FAA with all the information she needed to evaluate the MCAS.

As for the FAA, it was learned that the agency had delegated far too much to Boeing for MAX certification. That she lacked staff to do her supervisory work and that they were not always properly trained. When the FAA was trying to get Boeing back on track, she was under pressure to let Boeing act.

The joint committee

In the first weeks of the MAX crisis, the FAA set up a joint committee, the Joint Technical Review Commitee (JTRC). The former NTSB number one headed it, NASA was part of it, and nine certification agencies. Brazil, Canada, China and Europe where part of it.

The JTRC combed through the voluminous MAX certification documentation and FAA processes. His report was released yesterday and confirmed the media revelations of the past seven months. The high level of expertise of the JTRC gives it a moral authority.

The FAA number one did not hesitate to thank the JTRC for his work. He also said that he would analyze the recommendations of the JTRC to take the necessary action.

The situation of the FAA

The media surge of the last seven months against Boeing has had its effect on the American public. The level of confidence of the American public towards Boeing is at its lowest. The JTRC report is a culmination in the downfall of Boeing and its bring the FAA down with it.

The media treatment of the JTRC report is nothing to improve the image of Boeing and the FAA. The New York Times headlined yesterday: “Boeing and FAA Faulted in Damning on 737MAX Certification

In recent weeks, differences between the FAA and EASA have emerged regarding the re-certification of the MAX. The FAA did not hesitate to say that it could decide alone to return the MAX in flight. But if the majority of the nine agencies that participated in the JTRC disagree, the FAA will be stuck; how could she justify taking a decision against those she has appointed to evaluate her work?

An opportunity

There is no longer an official world leader for the certification of civil aircraft. But nature hates emptiness and the place will have to be filled. Because of its size and role in Europe, EASA is the natural candidate for leadership. Its capability to oppose the FAA in the re-certification of the MAX is an evidence of that.The trade war against Europe into which the US government is embarking is confusing. Europe could be accused of using EASA and MAX to retaliate to the United States. EASA must therefore be careful and not exaggerate in its requirements for the re-certification of the MAX.

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