US aviation regulator says only it can authorise Boeing 737 MAX

The agency has been criticised for delegating parts of its aircraft certification process to planemakers like Boeing.

    The United States air safety regulator in a letter on Tuesday told Boeing it will retain the authority to certify the plane-maker's 737 MAX aircraft until it is confident Boeing has “fully functional quality control and verification processes in place” [File: Lindsey Wasson/Reuters]
    The United States air safety regulator in a letter on Tuesday told Boeing it will retain the authority to certify the plane-maker's 737 MAX aircraft until it is confident Boeing has “fully functional quality control and verification processes in place” [File: Lindsey Wasson/Reuters]

    The United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said it has notified The Boeing Company that the agency will be the only issuer of airworthiness certificates for all new 737 MAX planes, a role that it had shared with the aircraft maker in the past.

    The regulator also repeated that it has not completed its review of the 737 MAX aircraft design changes and associated pilot training.

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    In a letter sent to Boeing on Tuesday, the FAA said it "has determined that the public interest and safety in air commerce require that the FAA retain authority to issue airworthiness certificates and export certificates of airworthiness for all 737 MAX airplanes."

    The agency said it will keep the authority to issue the certificates until it is confident Boeing has "fully functional quality control and verification processes in place" and that other Boeing procedures meet all regulatory standards.

    Last month, an international panel of air safety regulators harshly criticised the FAA's review of a safety system on the 737 MAX jet that was later tied to two crashes that killed 346 people.

    The Joint Authorities Technical Review (JATR) was commissioned by the FAA in April to look into the agency's oversight and approval of the so-called MCAS anti-stall system before the fatal crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia.

    The JATR said the FAA's long-standing practice of delegating "a high level" of certification tasks to manufacturers like Boeing needs significant reform to ensure adequate safety oversight.

    "We continue to follow the lead of the FAA and global regulators," Boeing spokesman Gordon Johndroe said by email. "They will determine when key milestones are achieved and when the fleet and training requirements are certified so the MAX can safely return to service."

    Boeing said earlier this month it expected the FAA would authorise 737 MAX planes to fly again around mid-December even though it did not expect the agency to complete its review of revised training requirements until January.

    The 737 MAX, Boeing's best-selling plane, has been grounded worldwide since the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines flight in March, less than six months after another plane of the same model crashed in Indonesia.

    The company still has many hurdles to complete including a certification test flight that has not yet been scheduled and simulator work with international pilots. Boeing must also complete a software documentation audit.

    SOURCE: Reuters news agency