The Boeing 737 MAX situation is not an aberration. It is the logical result of a corporate strategy to take control of safety certification regulation from the FAA. Boeing chose this strategy to increase profits and maintain its competitive position as the top airline manufacturer. Boeing persuaded Congress to incrementally grant Boeing more control over safety certification, touting a safety record built upon decades of strong government regulation. Instead of recognizing this key role of government regulation, Boeing took it for granted and falsely argued that giving it control over its own safety regulation would cut delays and expenses while not harming safety.
The MAX should never have been certified as safe to fly. Fifty years of changes to the original 737 design led Boeing to the situation where a single sensor controlled a critical system without pilots or the FAA knowing the existence of the system or its full capabilities. The Boeing corporate strategy to avoid government regulation has backfired in a horrible and tragic way. The 737 MAX profits have turned to losses. Thousands of jobs have been lost. Boeing’s safety reputation has been ruined, dragging the FAA’s down with it. Three-hundred-forty-six innocent lives have been lost in 2 crashes in 6 months due to Boeing and FAA greed and incompetence. The entire U.S. commercial aviation industry has been placed at risk. A white paper was written by FlyersRights.org on how the 737 MAX was unwisely certified and what needs to be done.
The FAA has long held the reputation of the gold standard for aviation safety. This reputation was seriously challenged when the FAA was slow to ground the 737 MAX, waiting for many aviation authorities around the world to ground the plane, including the European Union and Canada, after a second crash. As time passed, more and more revelations cast doubt on the FAA’s oversight and delegation. If the FAA now rushes to un-ground the 737 MAX before other authorities are satisfied, before the systemic problems are fixed, and before the FAA can reassure the public that it has the resources, capability, and desire to act independently and place safety as its first priority, the FAA’s reputation may be permanently damaged.
Here are the recommendations released by a whitepaper published by FlyersRights.org.
- In the next 10 days, Boeing and the FAA must release the technical details of Boeing’s proposed fix to outside experts for review and critique. The policies and practices of Boeing that self-classify all submissions to the FAA has proprietary or trade secrets and therefore exempt from public view must be grounded for the 737 MAX. This must be done voluntarily by Boeing, or by order of the FAA or Congress. Without full transparency, Boeing and the FAA cannot restore public confidence. Should another MAX crash occur, Boeing would likely be destroyed, and FAA’s status as a credible safety regulator would end.
- Congress must repeal Boeing’s secretly lobbied changes to the 2018 FAA Reauthorization Act that granted near total control of aviation safety regulation to the industry and made the regulatory capture of FAA a fait accompli.
- Congress, in its appropriations bills, should mandate full disclosure of Boeing’s proposed MAX fix, provide a 60-day public comment period, and require a full report to Congress by Administrator Dickson prior to any possible FAA decision to un-ground the MAX.
- The FAA should suspend ODA authority for Boeing in light of its demonstrated lack of trustworthiness that is essential for such delegation.
- The FAA must civilly prosecute Boeing and its employees who hid or misrepresented dangerous conditions. FAA should impose fines and suspensions in accordance with the law. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) should criminally prosecute those responsible for knowingly or recklessly approving the MAX as safe to fly with life threatening conditions.
- Congress should enact legislation that charges certification fees to plane manufacturers to cover the cost of regulation and to improve the qualification and number of FAA safety personnel. Congress must restore the FAA’s ability to independently evaluate aircraft safety.
- Any industry personnel to whom safety regulation authority has been delegated should take an oath of office and receive federal government whistle-blower protections. Delegated personnel must be free of undue pressure from industry management, and any undue pressure exerted from industry must be reported to FAA and Congress.
This is the conclusion reached by Paul Hudson, president of FlyersRights.org.