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Panel faults both Boeing and FAA for failures in 737 Max development

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A newly released report faults both the Federal Aviation Administration and Boeing for failures in the overall certification of the Boeing 737 Max.

The Joint Authorities Technical Review, released Friday, finds Boeing failed to explain thoroughly how much the MCAS system — the anti-stall software at the heart of two deadly crashes — had been changed from previous plane models. The report looked at not only FAA oversight of the certification of the plane but also the process for how the planes’ MCAS system came to be approved.

CNN first reported the panel’s concerns this summer. The panel took issue with the “high percentage of approvals and findings of compliance” that were delegated to Boeing for the 737 Max program, recommending areas that needed to be improved by FAA and Boeing to ensure the process has integrity.

In Friday’s report, the panel notes that the FAA’s difficulty in finding and hiring certification engineers with adequate knowledge of aircraft’s increasingly complex automated systems also contributed to deficiencies in reviewing aircraft.

The report suggested that the FAA reconsider how much time it estimates pilots will need to troubleshoot a problem, because of that increasing complexity. Regulators need to make sure they are giving pilots enough time to respond and that they are making the right assumptions about how pilots will respond to multiple alerts and alarms on these complex planes, the panel asserted.

The panel found that Boeing had failed to update safety documents regarding the evolution of the MCAS system, and that therefore the FAA could not adequately review the system’s safety.

The panel made a dozen recommendations, including a closer assessment of changes to a plane’s design that could impact the functionality of other systems, even if those systems existed on an earlier version of the plane.

The report called for the FAA to be made aware of any significant design change that may impact other functions of the plane that may themselves not have been changed.

“The FAA should be provided all system differences between related aircraft in order to adequately evaluate operational impact, systems integration, and human performance,” the report states.

FAA Administrator Steve Dickson said in a statement that he would “review every recommendation and take appropriate action.”

“We welcome this scrutiny and are confident that our openness to these efforts will further bolster aviation safety worldwide,” he added. “The accidents in Indonesia and Ethiopia are a somber reminder that the FAA and our international regulatory partners must strive to constantly strengthen aviation safety.”

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