The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced that it will continue to allow aircraft manufacturers like Boeing to self-certify when it comes to approving new aircraft. The agency said it intends to keep in place the highly criticized Organization Designation Authorization (ODA) aircraft certification process.
The announcement is in response to recommendations in a report the agency received in January from the Safety Oversight and Certification Advisory Committee, an advisory committee created by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Elaine Chao. The response is at odds with objections from lawmakers and regulators worldwide following two deadly crashes involving the Boeing 737 MAX, which claimed 346 lives. The self-certifying protocol was in place when the MAX was approved, and critics of the process say it fostered a culture that helped dismantle regulations designed to keep the flying public safe.
“The FAA’s insistence to maintain the flawed self-certification process and to allow aircraft makers like Boeing to approve its own deadly aircraft speaks to the travesty of its internal review process,” said Beasley Allen attorney Mike Andrews who focuses much of his practice on aviation litigation and currently represents families of Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 victims. “The FAA’s response means that it is not a question of if but when Boeing will once again abuse the authority the FAA has granted it and make similar, unwise decisions that lead to even more deaths.”
The DOT committee’s report vehemently defended the FAA, one of the few reports from numerous investigations of the two deadly crashes that justified the FAA’s procedures. Lawmakers and the international regulatory community questioned the report when it was first released. Lawmakers once again have criticized the agency’s decision to maintain the ODA and promise to address the problems with the process, potentially involving a complete overhaul.
Sen. Maria Cantwell, (D-Wash), said that the ODA fails to hold plane makers like Boeing accountable and that Congress will need to “address shortfalls and problems that exist in the FAA’s current oversight authority.”
Rep. Peter DeFazio, (D-Ore), explained that “we already know the FAA’s certification process is in need of a major overhaul.” He plans to create legislation that will “make sure that the failures in the system that led to the death of 346 people never happen again.”
The FAA agreed to take steps to address other concerns raised in the DOT Committee’s report.
“However,” Andrews said, “until the FAA addresses the systemic failures that led to the erosion of consumer safety protections, very few measures will prevent similar tragedies from occurring in the future. The ODA self-certification process was bought and paid for with aircraft manufacturers’ lobbying money and it likely won’t go away without a well-funded fight.”
Beasley Allen lawyer Mike Andrews has been actively involved in the investigation of the Ethiopian Airlines crash involving the Boeing Max 737. Mike handles all types of aviation litigation for the firm, involving both civilian and military aircraft.