Aircraft Accidents and a Certification Crisis

Boeing is seeking help from government lawmakers in pushing through legislation that will ‘streamline’ the international certification of its new jets: the 787-10 and the 737 MAX.  It appears that the international aircraft market is moving at a snail’s pace and Boeing wants the Federal Government to help it grease the skids.

Asking the government to intervene is a dangerous position, not to mention employing an unfair advantage in what is supposed to be the free market.  Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are wined and dined to sway their votes on subjects they have no first-hand experience with.  Rick Larsen (D-WA) is a ranking member on the Aviation Subcommittee; and Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ) Chairman of this subcommittee are positioned to make some major decisions concerning reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).  Neither lawmaker, nor anyone else on the committee, have any transportation or manufacturing experience beyond being a passenger on an airliner.  As Maxwell Smart might say, “this would fall under the old making-bad-decisions-based-on-emotion-rather-than-knowledge trick.”

Just as dangerous is pressuring the government to require the FAA to intervene in matters of Commerce.  As I tell all my students, the FAA, the Federal Rail Administration, the Federal Maritime Commission or any other regulating body do not arbitrate how the various transportation companies do business; they do, however, determine that they should do business – safely.  It is a dangerous precedent to set that allows the government to dictate how an airline sells its services; a shipping company what ports to go to; or a railroad what engines to use.

In the same way, the government should not be used as the muscle in a sales agreement.  Would we want Canada saying to the United States that the US is moving too slowly on a deal; that to pick up the pace or there’ll be consequences.  Then the US should not participate in the increasing of speed of certifying aircraft in a foreign land.

As shown in the Lithium Battery conundrum of the B787 a few years ago, rushing to certify can lead to mistakes.  As technology slips further through our understanding, the chances for safety issues increases; we would like to think we have the flick, but we don’t … we can’t … Man is just not that smart.

As I said on numerous occasions: pilots don’t fly anymore; mechanics don’t repair anymore; and air traffic will soon no longer control the skies.  Should we force our lack of respect for technology on other nations?  Maybe … maybe, their lack of arrogance would be a lesson for the Federal Government, and Boeing.

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