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FAA Gains New Authority Over Aircraft Manufacturers

Dec. 30, 2020
The federal air-safety agency will expand its own technical staff, end employee compensation based on manufacturer-driven goals, and impose civil penalties on individuals accused of coercing inspectors.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has gained increased authority over the process of certifying the airworthiness of new commercial jets following the enactment of new legislation, signed into law by President Trump on Sunday. While the new law will impact Airbus and other domestic aircraft manufacturers, it is chiefly a response to problems revealed during Congressional inquiries to FAA’s certification of the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft.

FAA and Boeing came under severe criticism for their conduct of the 737 MAX certification, which was completed in 2017. The agency had operated according to a program that allowed Boeing employees to act as overseers of the aircraft development process, in the place of FAA officials.

Whistleblowers claimed Boeing coerced its employees assigned to manage the inspection of different 737 MAX designs and systems in order to speed the certification process; and legislators charged that FAA had been too compliant with the manufacturer in deferring to its handling of the certification procedures.

In a statement, FAA said that with the new authorities granted by the legislation it would “implement the changes as directed by Congress. The FAA is committed to continuous advancement of aviation safety and improving our organization, processes, and culture.”

According to the new legislation, FAA must report to Congress on implementation of recommendations issued after the 737 MAX crashes.

Also, FAA employees may no longer receive bonuses or other financial incentives based on meeting manufacturer-driven certification schedules or quotas.

The law authorizes civil penalties against manufacturers’ supervisors who interfere with employees acting on behalf of the FAA. It also authorizes more funding for FAA to add to its technical staff and requires the agency to review pilot-training.

Boeing has not commented on the new regulations.

The 737 MAX has resumed commercial service this month, nearly 21 months after it was grounded following two crashes that killed 346 passengers and crew members.