Congress and the Media have attacked Organization Designation Authorization
Perception, not Factual, is that ODA is flawed
ODA is critical and perception can be addressed by adding Separation
“Overconfidence breeds complacency, and complacency breeds disaster. We’ve seen it here, and we will see it again unless we mandate safety as something which is not optional,” Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) said at a sometimes tense hearing of the subcommittee on aviation and space.
“At this time last year, the FAA was widely viewed as the ‘gold standard’ for safety in the aviation industry, but it is becoming clear that these tragedies resulted from a cascading chain of failures — from manufacturer to regulator to airline,” Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) said. “We must ensure each and every weakness in this chain is addressed, not just one of them. And we must work to end the culture of coziness in aviation safety oversight to help prevent similar tragedies from happening again.”
Critics, including some inside the FAA, said the agency would be ceding too much of its core safety mission — making sure Boeing’s planes are safe for the flying public — to the company. Some FAA officials worried the federal government was creating a classic fox-guarding-the-hen house scenario.
“I still do think there is some power and influence when you are signing the paycheck,” Rep. Lois Frankel (D-Fla.) told Conner.
She pressed him on whether the company was arguing that certain parts of a plane’s design “should not have an inspection by an independent party.”
Rep. DeFazio: ‘Third party,’ not just FAA, must confirm Boeing 737 Max 8 safety fixes are good enough
The independent review, which DeFazio said has bipartisan support, should evaluate whether Boeing’s fixes are “comprehensive” and if “pilots have the information and training they need to fly these aircraft safely.” DeFazio said later this week he will also “submit document requests to the FAA and Boeing to drill down into key certification decisions regarding the Max.”
Chairman David Price (D NC) raised a broad range of questions about the program, saying, “No it’s not self-certification. But it clearly, clearly is a process that requires a certain FAA capacity… certain trained personnel. It requires vigorous oversight. It requires discerning judgment about what’s delegated and what isn’t, what is done in house.
“And it requires critical judgment about how this is working right now — and the extent to which aircraft are not being subject to the most thoroughgoing kind of examination, even when there are major new components in the planes,” Price said.
And beneath all of that, Price asked, “Are there potentials for conflicts of interest, with respect to industry’s role here? Are there possibilities that employees will be subject to pressures in carrying out this role? Many, many questions, which are, I would suggest, at the administrator’s level and at the secretary’s level.”
“The fact of the matter is that these crashes and subsequent reports of how the 737 MAX was approved have badly shaken public confidence in how the 737 MAX was approved,” Senator Cruz (R TX) said. “Trust is the currency of the realm. Trust of the flying public in the safety of the aircraft they step onto; trust of our international partners in the diligence and thoroughness of our regulatory bodies and, increasingly, trust of our regulatory bodies in the truthfulness of the data and certifications provided and performed by industry
“The FAA decided to do safety on the cheap, which is neither cheap nor safe and put the fox in charge of the hen-house,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said. “In its rush to produce that aircraft because of competition from Airbus, critical safety features were disregarded.”
A lot of Members of Congress have opined on the efficacy of the FAA’s Organization Designation Authorization—from “foxes in the hen house” to “coziness” to “conflicts of interest” to “ceding its mission” to “the power of the paycheck” to “complacency.” Ignoring their unintended or even intended insults to the integrity of the professionals who exercise the authority delegated and who surveil those judgments, the B-737 Max 8 MCAS tragic failures should not end the ODA. One of the unfortunate maxims of Washington is that perception is a forceful reality here.
Why does ODA exist? Its creation, approved by Congress in several instances, recognizes that the FAA needs additional resources to optimize its certification mission. More than additional eyes involved in these aircraft design and approval, engineering and airworthiness, ODA is a means for the FAA to bring expertise to some of the technical and innovative elements of proposed aircraft, powerplants, airframes, materials, systems, etc.
It is becoming increasingly common that a significant aspect of a new proposal requires expertise that is so novel or even unique that the FAA does not have someone competent to assess its validity under regulatory standards. It would be fiscally irresponsible for the FAA to offer full time employment for such a limited time assignment.
Thus, it is self-evident that the ODA cannot be retracted; that this extension of the FAA’s regulatory duties must be maintained.
As demonstrated by the above-quoted, not based on facts, Congressional criticisms, there is an appearance that the ODA was influenced by the fact that the organization was owned by the applicant for the Part 25 certificate.
Neither 49 USC §44702 (enacted Aug. 23, 1958,, amended Oct. 15, 1966,, and amended Jan. 12, 1983, and most recently amended Dec. 12, 2003.)nor 14 CFR part 183, subpart D compel the ODA to have such separation. The FAA can amend Part 183 to require that, for example—
The Part 183 applicant or the holder of a ODA or any principal/named designee within the Authorization may not be owned by the Type Certificate nor may have an equity or debt instrument issued by the Part 21, 23, 25, 27, 29, 31,33, 34, 35 or 36 applicant.
For existing ODAs, ownership by the TC applicant must be terminated within 365 calendar days from final promulgation of this amendment.
Principals and named designees holding stock or debt in a TC applicant prior to promulgation of this amendment (a) must report, to the FAA office issuing the ODA, such interest within 30 days and (b) must divest such interest within 5 years.
As to ODAs, principals and designees which hold an interest in a Type Certificate applicant seeking the services of the Organization, such interest must be disclosed to the FAA office issuing the ODA prior to accepting the assignment. The Office may determine, based on the size of the disclosed interest compared to the individual’s net worth, whether the interest is sufficient (greater than 10%?) to create a perception of conflict.
Most of the existing ODAs are not owned by a TC applicant. Those, which have had such a relationship, may continue that work subject to the disposal of those interests.
The system of ODAs would remain intact for the FAA utilization. The independence will make the relationship arm’s length; the ODA’s knowledge will make it difficult for the TC applicant to terminate over differences in judgments.
This change may also stimulate additional ODAs. Given the commentary on the FAA’s supervision, might it be possible to require that the TC applicant may a fee to the FAA to compensate the supervisory personnel assigned in house to review the ODAs’ work product.
This is a very preliminary idea, not even reaching the level of an ANPRM. The reality is that Congress and the media, with almost no knowledge of the professionals involved or of the process, have concluded that the ODA is suspect. A more accurate history of this authority proves that ODA is authorized by Congress for excellent reasons and has enhanced aviation safety here and overseas:
Those, who are experts in this critical extension of the FAA’s competence, should be prepared to deal with a likely Congressional mandate, thus this suggestion.
PLEASE SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS/AMENDMENTS/ADDITIONS/
All professional engineers have undergone some of the most rigorous educational requirements provided by universities. To be licensed they must meet the highest standards. That PE designation has value which exceeds the next paycheck and is a ticket to other employment. To insinuate that their judgment can be corrupted is an insult to the profession. Members of Congress are immune to libel suits.
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