FAA Chief Stresses Need for Better Plane Design and Piloting

By Ryan Beene and Alan Levin | September 24, 2019

The top U.S. aviation regulator briefed his counterparts from around the world on the grounded Boeing Co. 737 Max, reminding them that improvements in both aircraft design and piloting are needed for safety.

Newly installed FAA Administrator Steve Dickson pledged in his opening statement Monday to continue sharing information as the agency assesses Boeing’s proposed fixes for a flight-control system involved in two fatal crashes, off the coast of Indonesia and in Ethiopia.

“If we are to continue to raise the bar for safety across the globe,” Dickson said, it will be necessary to “foster improvements in standards and approaches for not just in how aircraft are designed and produced, but how they are maintained and operated.”

Dickson and other FAA officials were joined by a senior Boeing executive for more than an hour of meetings with more than 50 delegates from civil aviation regulators around the world at the Montreal offices of the International Air Transport Association. The FAA described the meeting as an “informal briefing,” according to an invitation seen by Bloomberg.

The briefing came amid concerns that the 737 Max’s global return to service could be disrupted as some regulators conduct their own independent verification of the jet’s airworthiness following changes made by Boeing.

“As you make your own decisions about returning the Max to service, we will continue to make available to you all that we have learned, all that we have done, and all of our assistance,” Dickson said.

Those concerns focused in particular on the European Union Aviation Safety Agency, after its top official earlier this month said the body was conducting its own review of Boeing’s design changes to the jet.

When asked after the meeting if he still hoped the 737 Max could go back into service at roughly the same time in Europe as in the U.S., EASA Executive Director Patrick Ky said “that’s what we are working on.”

“We need a certain number of things, which were detailed by” the FAA during the meeting, he said. “I have nothing to add to what I said already.”

The Canadian regulator, Transport Canada, released a statement saying it was “continuing its review.”

“Transport Canada will not lift the current flight restriction” of the Max “until it is fully satisfied that all concerns have been addressed by the manufacturer and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, and that adequate flight crew procedures and training are in place,” the agency said in the statement.

Earlier Monday, Dickson met with relatives of victims who died in the Ethiopian Airlines crash.

Paul Njoroge, who lost five family members, including three children, in the Ethiopia crash, and Chris Moore, whose 24-year-old daughter died in the tragedy, stood outside IATA’s office holding a poster with pictures of the victims of Fight 302, which crashed March 10 outside Addis Ababa after pilots unsuccessfully battled the jet’s malfunctioning maneuvering characteristics augmentation system, or MCAS.

“The big takeaway was that they would make sure the plane would not be un-grounded until all aspects of safety were addressed,” Moore said.

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