Good news on B777-X type certification process
FAA finds another problem with B737 Max 8
Should FAA and Boeing reexamine the existing Organization Designation Organization?
To start with the positive, of which there has been a dearth recently, the Boeing 777X reached an important milestone and equally significantly the article cited the company’s engineers:
Boeing engineers have recently performed a series of low-speed taxi tests on the 777X flight test plane. Although the test was just one of many to be conducted in the certification process of the world’s longest passenger airliner, it marked a milestone moment – it was the first time the 777-9 moved on its own power
By all accounts, the B 777-9 certification process is progressing well and the Organization Designation Authorization (ODA) appears to be meeting its requirements.
The original problem, after the two horrible accidents, creates or raises doubts about the airworthiness assessment of the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) appears from all reports to have missed a significant deficiency. That ODA process involved the holder of that FAA authority (Boeing) making the analyses, the ODA issuing its determination and the FAA exercising its oversight authority. Clearly, something did not foot.
[not a B737 simulator]
That said, the fact that FAA test pilots (not Boeing), in recent simulator testing, discovered a separate issue that affected the B-737 Max8’s ability to quickly and easily follow recovery procedures for runaway stabilizer trim and stabilize the aircraft. That was bad in that there are still problems with the aircraft and that the ODA did not find this serious flaw.
[just a Boeing engineer, not to suggest that he was involved in the MCAS]
While Boeing had not formally resubmitted the MCAS for approval, the fact that the FAA, not the applicant, found another flaw should cause the FAA to reassess the specific authorities granted. That is not to ascribe that any element of the process was at fault. However, the discovery of a second fault provides a basis for the FAA to carefully vet the specific competences of the ODA staff, the QA/QC standards and processes, internal and external supervision, the actual systems used to test the software, etc.
The FAA Administrator might consider appointing a review team composed of ODA and software experts not involved in the Boeing certifications. Such a group should be chartered soon because Boeing is involved in certification of other aircraft.
One would hope that the Boeing senior executives, in addition to their crisis management, have taken a similar initiative internally. The folks at the Chicago International headquarters are charged with the long term strategic perspective; someone there must have identified and prioritized such a project.
Boeing, not surprisingly as the world’s largest aerospace company, has a global footprint. The leadership has advocated that SMS and safety culture are corporate values. It is a long way from Chicago and the plants in Seattle and North Charleston. The Executives must instill these values from the top (Chicago) to the shop floors. The heart of the ODA is an extraordinary commitment to safety. An internal and even more emphatically and external audit of this regulatory privilege will raise the SMS profile there.
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