LONDON – According to Reuters, the US Senate Commerce Committee will today vote on whether there should be tightened oversight of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) amid the grounding and ungrounding of the Boeing 737 MAX.

It is likely this vote will be approved as the Chairman of the committee, Roger Wicker, stated that a bipartisan chain of reforms had been agreed on between Republicans and Democrats.

Wicker stated that the proposed changes will “strengthen the aircraft safety certification process, bolster whistle-blower protections and reduce opportunities for undue pressure, and promote international collaboration on aviation safety efforts.”

Photo: Former CEO of Boeing Dennis Muilenberg pictured in a Senate Committee room during questioning over the handling of the 737 MAX crisis. Photo Credit: The Times.

FAA Can’t Roll the Dice Anymore…

The bill, if passed, would require the FAA by law to disclose any future risk assessments to Congress within seven days via a briefing by the administrator Steve Dickson, with the Transportation Research Board also giving a separate review.

Such measures have been added into the bill in order to have as much oversight over the institution as possible, especially with the amount of distrust in Washington over this crisis.

As House Transportation Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio stated back in December last year, the FAA cannot just roll the dice when it comes to safety.

And the US Government has responded in turn to such behaviours by Boeing and the FAA.

Photo: Picture of current Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun. Photo Credit: The Wall Street Journal

The Bill Will Provide More Security

Also commenting on the bill was State Senator Maria Cantwell who stated that the new rules would provide better safety practices to certification. “[The change would require] a comprehensive integrated systems safety analysis which would have helped uncover problems like the ones with”.

Cantwell also added that it would strengthen laws and upgrade technical expertise on the certification side, meaning the FAA will become more involved in such processes going forward.

As Dickson stated in a video address to the public, the FAA will inspect each 737 MAX aircraft that is built and will approve it with an airworthiness directive to ensure it is safe.

Photo: Current FAA Administrator Steve Dickson seen in a Senate Committee hearing about recertification. Photo Credit: Politico.

A Difficult Year

Such extended oversight will more than likely come into place due to a report being released back in October last year about Boeing reportedly misleading the FAA on safety during the certification process.

The FAA has had to take considerable steps to ensure that the aircraft has been recertified properly, especially with the Administrator Steve Dickson stating that he feels ‘comfortable’ onboard the aircraft.

Whilst the FAA has approved the ungrounding of the aircraft, administrations globally are still reviewing training requirements for the aircraft, such as Transport Canada (TC). The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has already dubbed the plane safe to fly, meaning that an additional layer of approval has been given.

Photo: Max Langley

Long Road Ahead

With Boeing beginning production of the MAX again back in May this year, such certification means that more aircraft can be built every month and more importantly, delivered.

The manufacturer currently has around $6bn in customer liabilities, consisting of compensation for aircraft grounded to other levels of debt owed, so getting the program kick-started is vital for the manufacturer.

As for the FAA, this will no doubt be a stepping stone in the way that aircraft are certified, which is now the good news the industry has been waiting for, as the standards should have been rigorous in the first place.

It will be interesting to see whether the FAA does certify every MAX that is built, and how true to its word it will stay.

Featured Image: The Federal Aviation Administration. Photo Credit: FAA.