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FAA proposes rule on modified type certificates, ahead of Boeing 737 MAX hearing

BY: ALEX DAUGHERTY | 03/06/2023 11:43 AM EST | UPDATED 03/06/2023 12:27 PM EST

The FAA on Monday proposed a rule that would require aircraft manufacturers seeking a modified type certificate to disclose all proposed changes in a single document at the beginning of the certification process.

The NPRM intends to close safety gaps exposed during the Boeing 737 MAX’s certification process, and is being issued as a result of a 2020 law that changed the aircraft certification process. The FAA said the change would require applicants for amended type certificates for transport category aircraft to disclose, in a single document at the beginning of the certification process, all new systems and intended changes to existing systems known to the applicant.

Background: In 2021, a DOT Inspector General report found that FAA’s certification process “does not adequately address integrating new technologies into existing aircraft models.” As a result, FAA did not have an understanding of changes made to the 737 MAX’s Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, a flight control software system, until after the first crash of Lion Air Flight 610 that killed 189 people. That MCAS system has been implicated in the fatal Ethiopian Airlines crash as well.

DOT’s IG also said that Boeing’s Organization Designation Authorization structure did not “ensure ODA personnel are adequately independent.”

“While the agency has taken steps to develop a risk-based oversight model and address concerns of undue pressure at the Boeing ODA, it is not clear that FAA’s current oversight structure and processes can effectively identify future high-risk safety concerns at the ODA,” DOT’s IG said in their report.

The certification process was a major focus of congressional efforts in response to the 737 MAX crashes and culminated in the 2020 law that empowers FAA to hire and fire ODA unit members that work with aircraft manufacturers and provided new funding for the program, among other provisions.

What’s next: The Senate Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on Wednesday on how the FAA is implementing the 2020 law.

The proposed rule is open for comments until April 3.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story had an incorrect date. The hearing will take place Wednesday.

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