United States

House passes bill to reform plane certification process after two Boeing 737 MAX crashes

FILE PHOTO: Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Chief Steve Dickson brings a Boeing 737 MAX aircraft to a stop after an evaluation flight at Boeing Field in Seattle, Washington, U.S. September 30, 2020. Mike Siegel/Pool via REUTERS./File Photo/File Photo

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. House of Representatives unanimously approved legislation on Tuesday to reform the Federal Aviation Administration’s aircraft certification process after two fatal Boeing 737 MAX crashes killed 346 people.

The 737 MAX has been grounded since March 2019 but the FAA is set on Wednesday to approve the plane‘s return to service after a lengthy review, new software safeguards and training upgrades, Reuters reported earlier.

The House bill, approved on a voice vote, requires an expert panel to evaluate Boeing Co’s safety culture and to recommend improvements, and mandates that aircraft manufacturers adopt safety management systems and complete system safety assessments for significant design changes.

It also requires that risk calculations be based on realistic assumptions of pilot response time, and that risk assessments are shared with regulators.

Boeing and the FAA declined to comment on the legislation. The Senate Commerce Committee plans to vote on Wednesday on a similar FAA certification reform bill, but it remains unclear if Congress will be able to adopt a measure by year end.

“Our intent is to ensure a U.S. manufactured airplane never again crashes due to design issues or regulatory failures,” said House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio, a Democrat, noting that the MAX grounding was the longest in the history of commercial aviation.

DeFazio, a Democrat, said the FAA failed to properly ensure the safety of the 737 MAX, and called aircraft certification “a broken system that broke the public’s trust.”

A report released by DeFazio found the 737 MAX crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia in 2018 and 2019 were the “horrific culmination” of failures by Boeing and the FAA and called for urgent reforms.

The House bill would extend airline whistleblower protections to U.S. manufacturing employees, require FAA approval of new workers who are performing delegated certification tasks, and impose civil penalties on those who interfere with the performance of FAA-authorized duties.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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