US FAA expands use of independent review when certifying aircraft

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The United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will expand the use of internal and external independent safety experts in certifying new aircraft. The move comes as the FAA continues to improve its aircraft certification process.  

The Technical Advisory Board (TAB) will gather independent technical experts to help the FAA to “have a consistent and thorough approach for all aircraft certification projects”. 

TAB members will be responsible for the review and identification of modern designs and technologies that could prove fatal if they fail. Independent experts will also look to see if the FAA specialists reviewed all significant issues and determine if FAA offices were involved in the certification process. TAB members will also be involved in secondary design reviews and training evaluations.  

The FAA formed a TAB group when recertifying the Boeing 737 MAX jet. It also has one in place for the certification process review of the new Boeing 777X widebody. 

Since the global grounding of Boeing 737 MAX aircraft in 2019, the FAA has been progressing with its aircraft certification process reform.  

New reforms include “delegating fewer responsibilities to manufacturers and demanding more transparency from them as well as hiring additional personnel as we increase our research on how over-reliance on automation potentially affects basic piloting skills”. 

All Boeing 737 MAX aircraft were grounded after two fatal crashes, one in Ethiopia and another in Indonesia, claimed 346 lives. Investigators have concluded the crashes were caused by a software system known as MCAS, which pushes the plane’s nose down to counter a pitch-up motion linked to its larger engines. The system, which was new for the MAX variant, had not been mentioned in flight training manuals made available to airlines and pilots. 

An investigation by the United States House of Representatives blamed not only the planemaker but also the FAA for its questionable oversight of the new aircraft.  

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