FAA reforms should reassert safety

At last, Congress has undone disastrous Federal Aviation Administration policy that abetted Boeing’s lapses in pushing the unsafe 737 MAX to market. The restoration of trusted FAA oversight is a necessary step to set Boeing back on course as aviation’s longtime leader.

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Opinion

December 30, 2020 - 9:01 AM

As the Olympic Mountains loom in the distance, the Boeing 777X takes off on its inaugural flight from Paine Field in Everett, Wash., on Saturday, Jan. 25, 2020. The 777X features giant carbon-composite wings, the largest Boeing has ever designed. The wings are so long that to fit at standard airport gates, each has to fold upward on a hinge 11 feet from the tip. (Mike Siegel/Seattle Times/TNS)

At last, Congress has undone disastrous Federal Aviation Administration policy that abetted Boeing’s lapses in pushing the unsafe 737 MAX to market. The restoration of trusted FAA oversight is a necessary step to set Boeing back on course as aviation’s longtime leader.

Legislation that passed Congress Dec. 21, championed by Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., rolls back Boeing’s ability to control much of the certification process for its aircraft. Misguided attempts to streamline federal policy and help Boeing over the years had improperly ceded too much of the FAA’s responsibilities to the manufacturer.

As a Senate Commerce Committee report this month showed, Boeing abused this free hand, limiting the FAA’s ability to spot flaws in the 737 MAX that would have been expensive to fix. The federal agency compliantly went along, setting off a chain of systematic failures. FAA test pilots were “inappropriately coached” about cockpit logistics, that report found. Flight control systems that should have been reviewed holistically were presented in fragmentary fashion. Whistleblowers rightly alarmed about this way of doing business faced unethical retaliations. It took two 737 MAX crashes that killed 346 people to forced Boeing to ground its global 737 MAX fleet.

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