According to the International Air Transport Association, the faulty certification and troubled recertification process involving the Boeing 737 Max has brought about a lack of trust between the various worldwide air safety regulators.
In the past, oversight of plane approvals was typically done by a single regulator with the others accepting that regulator’s findings. Over the past six months, that system has fragmented, with various regulators stepping in to address their countries’ concerns about the Federal Aviation Administration’s oversight of the 737 Max.
This fragmentation could be a serious setback for the industry, a spokesperson for the association told reporters. It could add years to the certification process and hundreds of millions to the cost of developing a new aircraft.
As we’ve discussed before, regulators in several countries grounded the 737 Max after there were two devastating crashes in just five months. The FAA idled the 737 Max last March.
On Wednesday, the FAA announced it had dropped plans to get the 737 Max in the air again this year. This was after the European Union Aviation Safety Agency and the corresponding agency in the United Arab Emirates said they will undertake independent reviews of the plane’s safety.
Air safety agencies from a number of countries are taking part in reviewing the 737 Max case through their participation in a Joint Authorities Technical Review panel. That panel released a report in October criticizing the FAA for failing to follow its own rules when approving the plane, along with using procedures that were out of date. The report accused the FAA of lacking both the resources and the expertise to fully vet the design changes blamed for the two fatal crashes.
The International Air Transport Association, which is an industry group, is working to maintain the status quo of a single regulator responsible for each aircraft type.
“Where there are questions over the certification process the relevant agency should cooperate and collaborate to restore confidence,” said the spokesperson.
“We are not the safest industry by chance,” he added. “We’re the safest because we have strong, very reliable safety processes and programs.”
The fate of the 737 Max is unclear, as of yet. Will international cooperation survive the apparent missteps of the FAA?