The saga of the Boeing Max 8 grounding and now the renewed determination of airworthiness has received as much attention as any aviation safety issue for decades. Given the voracious appetite of reporters for the details of this global crisis involving the Civil Aviation Authorities (CAAs) reacting to the tragic crashed, there is considerable transparency about the certification basis of this aircraft.
A major revelation has been the international network among the CAAs. Through a series of Bilateral Aviation Safety Agreements (BASAs), the authorities with the major aircraft approval responsibilities share those duties and recognize the competence of their equivalent organizations. The integrity of this system took a major hit between March 11 and 13, 2019 when eleven CAAs grounded the Max 8 without specifying an airworthiness basis.
The standard BASA includes the following statement of reciprocal recognition of competence and of shared authorities (from the EASA BASA)
ARTICLE 4 General Provisions
A. Each Party shall accept findings of compliance and approvals made by the other Party’s Technical Agent and, in the case of the United States those made by Aviation Authorities, in accordance with the terms and conditions set forth in the Annexes to this Agreement.
As described in the below three press releases, EASA, Transport Canada, ANAC (Brazil) and the FAA are about to engage in JOINT FLIGHT TESTING of the Max 8. Perhaps, these parties have made unannounced agreements ignoring Article 4 and declaring that the FAA’s findings are not worthy of acceptance. While it is true that the FAA’s approval of MCAS had deficiencies, the other CAAs have had significant certification errors (e.g. ; )
The agency continues to follow a robust certification process. In addition to the standard FAA certification team, the 737 MAX Technical Advisory Board (TAB) continues to provide valuable review and consultation.
· JOEB Validation & FSB Review – Final planning is underway for the FAA’s Flight Standardization Board (FSB) and the Joint Operations Evaluation Board (JOEB) review of proposed training for flight crews, based on the design change and crew procedures. The results of this evaluation will be included in the updated Flight Standardization Board report, which will also be posted for public comment.
The JOEB will include regulators from Canada, Europe, and Brazil and will evaluate minimum pilot training requirements. The FSB will issue a draft report for public comment addressing the findings of the JOEB.
· Final FSB Report – The FAA will publish a final FSB report after reviewing and addressing public comments.
· Final Design Documentation and TAB Report – The FAA will review Boeing’s final design documentation to evaluate compliance with all FAA regulations. The multi-agency Technical Advisory Board will also review the final Boeing submission and issue a final report prior to a final determination of compliance by the FAA.
· CANIC & AD – The FAA will issue a Continued Airworthiness Notification to the International Community (CANIC) providing notice of pending significant safety actions and will publish a final Airworthiness Directive (AD) that addresses the known issues for grounding. The AD will advise operators of required corrective actions before aircraft may re-enter commercial service.
· FAA Rescinds Grounding Order – This marks the official ungrounding of the aircraft, pending completion by operators of the work specified in the AD, along with any required training.
· Certificates of Airworthiness – The FAA will retain its authority to issue airworthiness certificates and export certificates for all new 737 MAX airplanes manufactured since the grounding. The FAA will perform in-person, individual reviews of these aircraft.
· Operator Training Programs – The FAA will review and approve training programs for all Part 121 operators.
COLOGNE, August 27, 2020 – The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has been working steadily, in close cooperation with the FAA and Boeing, to return the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft to service as soon as possible, but only once it is convinced it is safe.
While Boeing still has some final actions to close off, EASA judges the overall maturity of the re-design process is now sufficient to proceed to flight tests. These are a prerequisite for the European agency to approve the aircraft’s new design.
EASA has been working with the FAA and Boeing to schedule its flight tests, a process which has been hindered by COVID-19 travel restrictions between Europe and the United States.
The parties have now reached agreement that EASA’s flight tests will take place in Vancouver, Canada in the week commencing September 7, 2020.
Perhaps, as noted above, these flight tests are being conducted with an understanding between all of the parties. If not, the FAA Certification Service could easily take exception by this oversight, contrary to the terms of BASA. These four CAAs have access to all of the underlying data and have participated in the remedial steps.
Such a complaint might seem petty, but the “precedent” might cause China, Russia, Japan, India and the other CAAs that grounded the Boeing 737 Max 8 in 2019 to demand similar opportunities.
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