In the 2021 U.S. Federal spending bill, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) was ordered to review its Organization Designation Authorization (ODA) program under which aspects of aircraft certification can be delegated to the manufacturers.
Signed by Donald Trump on December 29, 2020, the law gives 30 days for the FAA to form an expert panel. The main function of the panel will provide “findings and recommendations” after reviewing if the safety culture of aircraft manufacturers is “consistent with the principles of the International Civil Aviation Organization Safety Management Manual.”
The panel will be composed of experts from the FAA, NASA, pilot and manufacturing worker union representatives, and “air carrier employees whose job responsibilities include administration of a safety management system.”
Within 270 days after the first meeting, a report from the panel should be transmitted to the FAA Administrator Steve Dickson and the concerned congressional committees with the findings and recommendations of the review.
The ODA program was the mechanism used by the FAA to delegate some of the certification work of the 737 MAX to Boeing engineers. In July 2020, the U.S. Department of Transportation found out that ODA-certified employees had suffered several instances of “undue pressure” from Boeing during the 737 MAX development.
The establishment of the review panel was initially requested by the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure in September 2020, in accordance with the recommendations that emerged from the investigations of several safety authorities into both the Boeing 737 MAX crashes and its design and certification process.
The bill also allocates $27 million annually for the next three years in order for the FAA to recruit and retain “engineers, safety inspectors” and other technical experts involved in the certification of aircraft, aircraft engines, and technological innovations.