MIAMI – On September 16, the United States Senate Commerce Committee will hold a hearing concerning a bill proposing the strengthening of oversight on aircraft certification. The hearing comes following the two fatal crashes of the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft.

The proposed bill would put an end to aircraft manufacturers’ ability to influence the certification process of their products. The measure is the most significant step towards certification reform since the crashes in 2018 and 2019.

Boeing 737 MAX-9 Photo: Boeing

Proposed Legislation

Republican Roger Wicker, U.S. Senate Commerce Committee chair, and ranking member Democrat Maria Cantwell introduced the proposal that would see new authority granted to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in regards to the aircraft certification process.

Formerly, it was commonplace for some of the certification tasks to be delegated to employees of the manufacturer, rather than be completed by FAA officials. Moving forward, the proposal would allow the FAA to hire or remove manufacturer employees performing certification tasks, and appoint safety advisers.

Additionally, Wicker released the FAA Accountability Enhancement Act bill to “reorganize the Aviation Safety Whistleblower Investigation Office, and bolster misconduct investigations and discipline management to enhance accountability across the agency”.

This follows an August survey of FAA safety employees, who suggested that the administration did not prioritize air safety and faced strong external pressure from the industry.

Grounded 737 MAX aircraft. Photo: Chuyi Chuang

All Eyes on Boeing

Boeing has been in a company crisis since the fatal 737 MAX crashes and the worldwide grounding of the aircraft type in March 2019. The company has been further worsened by the extreme impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the aviation industry.

The American aircraft manufacturer is facing lawsuits, as well as an ongoing criminal probe, amidst their efforts to win re-certification approval for the 737 MAX to return to commercial service.

The crash victims’ families are happy with the bills, but they still want more; specifically, that critical aircraft systems, like the MAX’s MCAS system for example, be approved by the FAA, as well as a requirement for manufacturers to re-certify new variants of existing aircraft types.

This is a developing story; this article may be updated or additional articles may be published as more information is released.

Featured image: Boeing 737 MAX-9. Photo: Boeing