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FAA Retaining Safety Inspection Authority on 787s

Feb. 20, 2022
The agency will withhold airworthiness certifications and final clearance for new aircraft until “Boeing's quality control and manufacturing processes” consistently meet FAA design standards.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration advised Boeing Corp. that it will retain the right to determine airworthiness for the 787 Dreamliner aircraft and to perform the final inspections on new 787s. The decision casts further uncertainty on that wide-body jet program, which has had deliveries on hold since mid-2021 as Boeing addresses various repairs under the direction of regulators.

The agency stated it will reserve the right determine the aircraft’s certification until it has confidence that "Boeing's quality control and manufacturing processes consistently produce 787s that meet FAA design standards."

Boeing has not commented on the FAA’s statement. There have been no safety incidents resulting from various problems in the 787 discovered during the past two years.

In September 2020, Boeing confirmed some faulty structural conditions on certain 787s, as well as defective fuselage skins – a problem first uncovered in 2019. In addition, Boeing inspectors discovered problems in the structural soundness of some 787s’ forward pressure bulkheads; and subsequently the OEM confirmed that one of its sub-suppliers had delivered finished assemblies that included defective titanium components.

FAA’s determination to retain authority over 787 airworthiness certification and final inspection recalls an earlier problem involving the Boeing 737 MAX program. FAA had long accepted the airworthiness determinations of designated Boeing engineers during the aircraft design and development, a practice intended to simplify and expedite the process of certifying new aircraft. During the 19-month grounding of 737 MAX from April 2019 to November 2020, following two fatal accidents, and the reevaluation of its initial development and certification, whistleblowers accused Boeing of coercing them to approve various details in the aircraft design.

FAA director Stephen Dickson announced this week he will resign the position, citing family considerations. Dickson has headed the agency since August 2019.

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