DALLAS – The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has asked Boeing to conduct a review of the safety documents for the 737 MAX aircraft.
Some see this as another hurdle for the Chicago-based manufacturer to be in the clear for its MAX aircraft before gaining approval (before the year-end legal deadline) to fly passengers.
According to the FAA, Boeing’s previously submitted safety documents had “missing and incomplete information.” As a result, the air-safety regulatory body was unable to review the submission.
An agency letter viewed by The Wall Street Journal revealed that the missing and incomplete information stemmed from issues relating to the cockpit crew’s potential reaction to catastrophic hazards.
In the October 12 letter, the regulatory agency asked the company to reconsider the assumptions about the role of human factors in potentially dangerous safety events and further stated that the safety assessments should not contain human factors assumptions.
Human Factors Engineering
Following the two fatal crashes of the earlier models of the 737 MAX, Congress passed air-safety legislation in 2020, given the circumstances that led to the demise of Lion Air(JT) flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines (ET) flight 302.
The new regulation details what is now known as human factors engineering, and it covers how pilots should respond to cockpit emergencies—flights 610 and 302 went down due to Boeing’s assumption about how pilots would react to a flight-control system’s misfire.
At the start of the month, the Allied Pilots Association (APA), representing the 15, 000 American Airlines (AA) pilots, expressed opposition to the proposed extension of the Boeing 737-7 and -10 equipment exemption. Both 737 MAX aircraft must be certified before the end of the year, or Boeing will need to implement new cockpit-alerting requirements.
APA President Capt. Edward Sicher said at the time, “Boeing needs to proceed with installing modern crew alerting systems on these aircraft to mitigate pilot startle effect and confusion during complex, compound system malfunctions. Once these systems are installed and pilots have been properly trained on them, our crews will be better able to identify system failures and prioritize corrective actions that could save lives.”
Further Comments from Boeing, FAA
Boeing stated that safety is still its priority to meet all certification requirements for the 737-7, and added that being thorough and transparent with the FAA will continue to be a priority.
On September 15, 2022, Boeing’s Chief executive David Calhoun said he expected the aircraft to receive certification by the year-end deadline set by Congress. However, FAA’s request for a review signals that the certification deadline is again at risk.
Additionally, the company is looking to add the 737-10 to the certified list by year-end, but Calhoun stated that Boeing might consider canceling that model without a congressional extension. United Airlines (UA) and Delta Air Lines (DL) are among this model’s buyers while Southwest (WN) is a major buyer of the type and is looking to replace its older jets with the new fuel-efficient model.
The FAA also said that the letter speaks for itself. At a press conference, Acting AA Administrator Billy Nolen stated that the agency would not approve the 737-7 and another MAX model for passenger service until it was satisfied.
“When we’ve got all the information we need, and not until then, we’ll certificate the airplane,” Mr. Nolen said. “We are working through it very purposefully, and when we get there, we get there,” said Nolen.
Featured image: Boeing