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FAA should continue controversial delegating of safety reviews to industry, panel concludes

A special panel reviewing how the Federal Aviation Administration certifies aircraft recommended the agency continue delegating some safety reviews to manufacturers, including Boeing, despite criticism over that process following two 737 MAX crashes that killed hundreds of people.

The report concluded the “delegation system is an appropriate and effective tool,” and recommended the agency keep using it.

That process, currently called the Organization Designation Authorization, has come under scrutiny in the wake of the Boeing crashes that left 346 people dead, with lawmakers and the families of victims criticizing what they saw as inappropriate closeness between Boeing and the FAA, as well as possible deception by the company.

Internal communications released by congressional investigators have shown the top test pilot for the MAX writing that he sought to “jedi mind trick” regulators, and another employee writing that the plane was “designed by clowns, who in turn are supervised by monkeys.

Committee co-chairman Lee Moak, a former airline pilot and union president, declined in a conference call with reporters to weigh in on how the internal messages influenced or could have influenced their conclusions. “It was not the purview or the charge of the committee to look at or investigate email traffic,” he said.

The plane remains grounded and the FAA has said it will not delegate any of the review necessary to unground the plane to Boeing.

The new recommendations would have the agency and industry “address concerns about potential undue pressure” on the certification process.

Administrator Steve Dickson said the FAA “will carefully consider the committee’s work … as we take steps to enhance our aircraft certification processes.”

The special panel also concluded that the MAX would have been a substantially similar airplane if it had been subjected to a more stringent type of FAA certification. The agency certified the plane as a new version of the long-standing 737, rather than as an entirely new aircraft, and the report says the FAA properly followed its processes for certifying planes in this case.

The report also said the FAA should “better communicate minimum standards” for training to regulators in other countries that operate US-made aircraft.

The group, formally known as the Special Committee to Review the Federal Aviation Administration’s Aircraft Certification Process, was created by Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.

Article Topic Follows: Politics

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