The Federal Aviation Administration notified Boeing Co. that going forward it will not be sharing the authority to certify airworthiness for the 737 MAX aircraft, a responsibility FAA had shared with the manufacturer in the past. The issue of responsibility over certification processes has come under scrutiny in recent weeks as FAA and Boeing have been examined by Congressional panels concerning the 2017 certification of the then-new 737 MAX series.
The twin-engine 737 MAX is Boeing's best-selling aircraft, but the 345 jets already delivered to airlines have been grounded for eight months following two fatal accidents, in October 2018 and March 2019. The crashes killed a total of 346 people, and have been attributed to a faulty flight-control program, called the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS). MCAS is an "anti-stall" software meant to counter aerodynamic effects of the redesigned jets’ larger engines.
Boeing has redeveloped the MCAS and is awaiting the clearance by FAA, the European Air Safety Administration, and other regulators to install the software on the jets and resume deliveries of 737 MAX aircraft.
Earlier this month Boeing expressed confidence that the deliveries of new aircraft would resume in December. The manufacturer also detailed five steps it is taking to gain FAA’s approval for the jets' return to service.
In its letter to Boeing, the FAA stated it “has determined that the public interest and safety in air commerce require that the FAA retain authority to issue airworthiness certificates and export certificates of airworthiness for all 737 MAX airplanes.”
It added that it will retain the authority to issue the certificates until it is confident Boeing has “fully functional quality control and verification processes in place” and that other Boeing procedures meet all regulatory standards.
A Boeing spokesman reiterated the company is following the lead of the FAA and other regulatory agencies on the matter of certifying the grounded 737 MAX aircraft to return to service.