Global Aircraft Certification Collision Course?

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Patrick Ky (EASA) sees ISSUES on certification

Alexandre de Juniac (IATA) urges single answer for aircraft

Trend toward Global Standards at RISK


For a variety of solid policy reasons (common standards) and staffing limitations (aircraft manufacturing is increasing globally sourced), the world’s certification authorities (particularly ANAC, FAA, EASA and Transport Canada) have been moving towards a series of bilateral and multilateral aviation safety agreements. Each of these sovereign-to-sovereign acceptance of the other CAA’s technical competence. Here are a few articles which document that trend:

The Multi-Level Chess Board Of Global Aircraft Certification

EASA’s Certificate Action In Hyderabad, India Raises Global Policy Issues

The Promise Of A Global Aviation Partnership

Quadrilateral Aviation Certification Agreement Holds Great Promise—A Few Questions

Global Aviation Airworthiness Communication Is Not As Well Connected As It Might Be

Ky’s Plan To Consolidate Europe’s Aviation Safety Authority May Result In Platform For EASA To Influence Global Standards

Recent statements have brought into question whether this trend may be slowing down or may be on a collision course. EASA’ Director Patrick Ky has made some provocative statements and IATA’s Director General Alexandre de Juniac, seemingly not in response to Ky, has made a strong, contrary recommendation. Below are theirs’s and others’ quotes.

Ky Warns Max Crisis Could Alter FAA-EASA Relationship

Global regulator discrepancies over Boeing 737 MAX worry IATA

Regulator discord could delay the return of Boeing’s MAX jets

European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) executive director Patrick Ky signaled that the Boeing 737 Max grounding and the privileged relationship Boeing allegedly enjoyed with the FAA during the certification of the model could trigger a “very strong change” in the hierarchy of the relationship between the certification authorities, affirming a concern of a “de-alignment” of the FAA and EASA, expressed on several occasions by Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury. Speaking during an exchange of views with the European Parliament’s transport committee on Tuesday, Ky said that the FAA finds itself in a “very difficult situation.”

“It is very likely that international authorities will want a second opinion, or a further opinion [once the U.S. FAA clears the Max to fly],” he noted. “It was not like this a year ago.”

Ky said EASA did not audit the FAA and how it certified the Max and the problematic maneuvering characteristics augmentation system (MCAS), which safety authorities consider a major cause of the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines Max 8 crashes. However, the Cologne-based body is part of the international panel of safety technicians scrutinizing how the FAA allowed the airframer to oversee parts of its own certification. “What is certain is that the authorities have a critical eye on it,” Ky said, confirming an observation by an MEP that Boeing “auto-certified” the MCAS.

“Yes, there was a problem in this notion of delegation of the MCAS assessment [to Boeing],” he continued, adding that the conclusion will appear in the Joint Authorities Technical Review’s report scheduled for publication next week. “I have a lot of respect for my counterparts in the FAA; they have strong ethics. But what is needed is a change of their methodology,” explained Ky.

[A similar situation] would not happen in our system. We have a very structured way of delegating and an agreed methodology,” Ky insisted, though he admitted that with a staff of 800 his agency does not have enough personnel to dissect each software analysis OEM’s like Airbus, Safran, or Rolls-Royce produce. “That is simply impossible,” he stated. “But everything that is safety-critical has to be seen and validated by us.”  

EASA banned the Max from flying to and in European airspace on March 12. It set four conditions before the Max can return to service in the continent, including the certification by EASA itself—without delegating to the FAA—for all design changes proposed by Boeing. In addition, in a demand Ky called “not very popular with our American colleagues,” EASA has asked for a “broader review of the design of safety-critical systems” of the Max—domains that the EU-U.S. bilateral safety agreement delegated to the FAA. EASA also wants a “complete understanding” of the two accidents from both a technical and operational point of view and for adequate training of flight crew.

EASA, in theory, could set its own flight crew requirements for Max operations, Ky told MEPs. “I can guarantee you that the training requirements for the return to service of the Max will be defined by us and us only,” he stated. However, he also said it would “not make sense” to have different training requirements for the Max between the EU and the U.S., or the rest of the world. EASA communicated its flight and simulator requirements—a total of 70 test points, including angle-of-attack failures, stabilizer runaway, and MCAS inoperative—already at the end of May. Simulator evaluations took place in June and July.

Ky noted an “unprecedented level of effort” put into the Max involving around 20 multi-disciplinary experts including test pilots and engineers by EASA. The agency holds two to three weekly web-based meetings with Boeing and has reviewed more than 500 documents and actions.

Ky conceded he could not issue a timeline for the return to service. “Honestly, it would be impossible for me to give a timeline,” he said. “When we discussed with the FAA in April, they said May. And then everything was delayed by one month, and another month.”

But international regulators have indicated they will pursue their own analysis of the 737 MAX and Boeing’s proposed updates, after the FAA suffered a dent to its credibility following 737 MAX crashes.

With the 737 MAX we are a bit worried … because we don’t see the normal unanimity among international regulators that should be the case,” Alexandre de Juniac, IATA director general, told reporters ahead of a summit in Chicago.

“We see a discrepancy that’s detrimental to the industry, he added, urging regulators to make any changes to the single certification process “collectively.”

In an emailed statement, the FAA said it has a “transparent and collaborative relationship” with other civil aviation authorities, but “each government will make its own decision to return the aircraft to service based on a thorough safety assessment.”

In a presentation to the European Parliament transport committee on Tuesday, European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) Executive Director Patrick Ky said the regional regulator has around 20 experts, including test pilots and engineers, examining the 737 MAX design to ensure there were no weaknesses in safety critical areas.

Presentation slides posted on the European Parliament website showed that of the latest solutions presented by Boeing, EASA was satisfied with changes to the flight control computer architecture and believed improved crew procedures and training were a work in progress. However, it noted there was still no appropriate response to issues with the integrity of the angle of attack system.

Perhaps the rub derives from this—a Boeing problem:

Boeing not able to respond to regulators on MAX at August meeting

“Yes, we attended the meeting,” said a spokesperson for Brazil’s National Civil Aviation Agency, adding that Boeing was not able to answer regulators’ specific questions.

The meeting between Boeing and US, European and Brazilian regulators and others took place in Seattle, said another source, confirming prior reporting in The Wall Street Journal according to which the issue could push back Boeing’s timeframe for returning the 737 MAX to service.

The parties agreed to conclude the meeting and reconvene at a later date when Boeing could provide the details.

Boeing has said previously that it expects to submit its certification package to the FAA around September, with anticipated approval around a month later.

Questions about the flight control system surfaced during an FAA review in June separate from oversight of the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, an anti-stall system that has been seen as a factor in the two crashes.”

No inside information here; so we all will have to wait and see what happens—COLLISION OR NEAR MISS?






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