Days after the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) lifted its ban on the Boeing 737 MAX, no other global regulators have indicated a readiness to take such a step. In fact, at least four regulatory bodies announced they would require additional steps before considering lifting the ban on the deadly aircraft, which has two crashes on its record, claiming 346 lives.
“Global regulators are wise to give additional pause before lifting the ban on the MAX,” said Beasley Allen’s Mike Andrews, who has been actively involved in the investigation of the second MAX crash, Ethiopian Airlines flight 302, and represents families of victims killed in the crash. “The FAA was the last to ground the plane and the first to lift the ban, showing it has learned nothing from the lives sacrificed aboard a defective plane the agency has yet again placed into commercial service. The FAA may be at Boeing’s beck and call, but other regulators are not and this could be one of the few remaining fail-safes for the flying public regarding the MAX.”
Three of those agencies, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), National Civil Aviation Agency-Brazil (ANAC) and Transport Canada, have been working closely with the FAA as part of the Joint Authorities Technical Review (JATR) Panel the agency convened in April 2019. The EASA said that additional actions are necessary to “ensure safe operation of the affected aeroplanes, including pilot training.” Transport Canada explained that it is seeking additional procedures on the flight deck, as well as for pre-flight and differences in training. Similarly, Brazil’s ANAC confirmed that it will consider the FAA’s requirements as it continues its independent validation process and will only give its approval after its assessment is complete.
Additionally, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) regulator, General Authority of Civil Aviation, said that it “will issue a safety decision stipulating the technical requirements to ensure the safe return of service for the Boeing 737 ‘Max’ aircraft, and will announce the schedule for the return authorization in a timely manner.” The agency created a “Return to Service” committee to oversee the final review of the MAX. The committee is composed of specialists who will work with their counterparts at the FAA and EASA. The UAE’s carrier flydubai is one of Boeing’s major MAX customers – second to Southwest Airlines.
Last week, as Boeing and the FAA were lifting the ban on the MAX, federal lawmakers in both the House and Senate passed the Aircraft Certification Reform and Accountability Act (H.R. 8408). The bill sets in motion reforms to the way the agency approves new aircraft designs such as the MAX. Lawmakers wished to send a message to the FAA and Boeing that “cutting corners is not an option,” in the words of Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Washington) who is the ranking Democrat on the bill’s committee of origin (Senate Commerce Committee) and represents Boeing as part of her constituency.
The bill also requires U.S. aircraft and aerospace industry manufacturers to adopt safety management systems, which include safety reporting programs for their employees; and requires the FAA to revise and improve the agency’s process for amending type certificates of older airplane designs to add new derivatives and ensure harmonization with the processes of other international states of design. Further, it will establish an expert panel to review Boeing’s safety culture, broaden the category of employees protected by whistleblower laws, create new mechanisms for maintaining the independence of technical experts at the agency and in the industry, and provide $30 million in future funding to hire engineers and other experts who can provide oversight.
The unanimous passage of the legislation by both houses clears the way for a set of regulatory and oversight changes to be finalized by the end of the congressional session.
Mike handles all types of aviation litigation for the firm, involving both civilian and military aircraft.