A panel appointed after two fatal crashes involving Boeing 737 MAX 8 airplanes says the process used by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for aircraft certification is sound, but changes should be made to aid in identifying and mitigating risk.
The aircraft certification committee — appointed by Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao in April 2019 after the two crashes — released its report Thursday, concluding that “overall, the FAA’s certification … is effective.”
Nevertheless, the committee’s report included a series of suggestions calling for expanding requirements for safety management systems to include aircraft design and manufacturing organizations and also for expanding system safety assessments, which play a key role in safety risk management.
Other recommendations called for improved data collection, coordination among FAA offices working on aircraft certification, enhancement of the FAA’s use of delegation in the certification process, development of the FAA workforce to meet the industry’s changing needs and the updating of FAA policies involving amended type certificates.
The report said that during their investigation, committee members found “a strong, unwavering commitment to the primacy of safety and a keen awareness of risk” at the FAA.
“Safety is a complex global web of interrelated events and actions that come together to form a complex system with factors that, by themselves, are often manageable but can combine to produce unintended consequences,” the report said. “The FAA and industry combat this phenomenon through a combination of certification, training, inspections, data analysis, system redundancies and corrective measures designed to break the accident chain before a safety incident occurs.
The five-member panel is headed by Co-Chairs Capt. Lee Moak, a former president of the Air Line Pilots Association, International, and Darren McDew, a retired U.S. Air Force general who managed worldwide air, land and sea transportation for the Defense Department. The panel’s three other members are HeliOffshore CEO Gretchen Haskins, a member of the Flight Safety Foundation Board of Governors; Kenneth Hylander, a former airline safety executive and a former chairman of the Foundation Board of Governors; and David Grizzle, a former COO of the FAA Air Traffic Organization.