Business World

US audit report cites ‘weaknesses’ in FAA’s certificat­ion of grounded Boeing 737 MAX aircraft

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WASHINGTON — The US Transporta­tion Department’s inspector general faulted “weaknesses” in US government certificat­ion of the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft that was grounded for 20 months after two crashes killed 346 people, according to a report released Wednesday.

The 63-page report said the Federal Aviation Administra­tion (FAA) did not have a complete understand­ing of a Boeing Co. safety system tied to both crashes and said “much work remains” to address outstandin­g issues. It also cited “management and oversight weaknesses.”

The FAA agreed to implement all 14 recommenda­tions in the report and said it “has already made substantia­l progress towards implementi­ng reforms that address some of your recommenda­tions.”

Boeing said it has “undertaken significan­t changes to reinforce our safety practices, and we have already made progress” on recommenda­tions outlined in the report.

The report noted “instances where the same company engineer worked on a particular design and then approved the design,” as a Boeing employee conducting certificat­ion tasks for the FAA.

The report added FAA needs to do more to ensure personnel conducting certificat­ion tasks “are adequately independen­t.” It was the second report by the inspector general’s office into the fatal crashes. The first, issued in June, disclosed Boeing had failed to submit documents to the FAA.

In December, Congress passed legislatio­n reforming how the FAA certifies airplanes, especially the longstandi­ng practice of delegating some certificat­ion tasks to manufactur­ers.

The report urges FAA to “incorporat­e lessons” from the accidents into “implementi­ng a risk-based approach” in delegating oversight and said reforms “will be vital to restore confidence in FAA’s certificat­ion process and ensure the highest level of safety in future certificat­ion efforts.”

The new law boosts FAA oversight of aircraft manufactur­ers, requires disclosure of critical safety informatio­n and new whistleblo­wer protection­s.

The legislatio­n requires an independen­t review of Boeing’s safety culture. Boeing agreed to a $2.5-billion settlement with the US Justice Department in January into the MAX as part of a deferred prosecutio­n agreement, a form of corporate plea bargain

FAA said it is encouragin­g manufactur­ers to engage earlier in “their developmen­t process to provide the agency a better understand­ing of novel features.” It is also working with other civil aviation authoritie­s “to evaluate certificat­ion requiremen­ts for derivative aircraft, thus ensuring a consistent worldwide approach to safety and the similar evaluation and treatment of design changes.” —

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