Wall Street Journal Article Suggests Incursion by Secretary into Administrator’s Airworthiness Authority

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ARTICLE: How Airlines Kept 787s on Schedule

011513aThis article provides interesting insights as to how a manufacturer and its lead customers work through the “hiccups” which are a normal part of the introduction of a new aircraft. The quotes from Boeing, All Nippon, JAL, United and Qatar representatives evidence the cooperation between these very large, very sophisticated companies.

What is disturbing and hidden from the headline is the following sentence copied verbatim from the Wall Street Journal about the role of the Secretary of Transportation in the initiation of an FAA review of the B-787:

“While the FAA, Boeing and airlines stressed the 787 is safe to fly, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood played a central role in pushing for federal action in the wake of a fire last Monday aboard a parked 787 in Boston—the most serious incident since the Dreamliner entered service.” (emphasis added).

The recently confirmed FAA Administrator has the sole statutory authority and the staff with the competence to make technical airworthiness decisions. The Act, which incorporated the FAA into the Department of Transportation, made it clear that the power resides exclusively with the agency.

Mr. LaHood is not an engineer, nor does his extensive staff include people with the experience or knowledge to overrule the FAA’s judgment. There are plenty of policy issues in which the DoT can and may exert superior authority. The DoT/FAA press releases are replete with joint statements in which the Secretary is quoted and several lines below Mr. Huerta’s words are included as a secondary source.

This apparent incursion of the Secretary into the Administrator’s area of statutory competence is distressing and unfortunately not the first such example of what appears to be an overactive “boss.”

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