International Committee To Review MAX

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The Wall Street Journal is reporting (subscription) that the safety certification of the Boeing 737 MAX will be reviewed by an international committee, a large group of representatives from most of the major aviation regulators in the world. The panel, which is led by former NTSB Chairman Christopher Hart and includes delegates from Canada, China, Indonesia, the United Arab Emirates, the European Union and Brazil, will also do a detailed examination of the software fix proposed by Boeing and the FAA to address issues with the MCAS automatic stall prevention system that is implicated in two fatal crashes. The group’s first meeting is planned for later this month.

The international involvement is unprecedented. Normally, the FAA would have sole control over the process and the resulting certification would be accepted by other jurisdictions under bilateral agreements between the U.S. and those entities. The Journal says the FAA hasn’t given the other agencies veto power but agreed with Boeing that the process needs buy-in from all of them if public confidence is to be restored in Boeing and the FAA’s certification system. “We both invite and welcome scrutiny as a necessary element of continuous improvement,” an FAA spokesman said. “Our recent and planned outreach efforts are a demonstration of this commitment to enhance the safety of the flying public.”

What’s not clear is whether the committee approach will speed up or slow down the return to service of the MAX. All of the regulatory agency reps will come with an army of tech experts who will do the analysis of the mountains of data that will be generated. The FAA and Boeing seem to have accepted the inevitability of consensus as part of the return to service and if they didn’t the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has reminded them. It has said it will end its grounding “only once there is complete reassurance that it is safe.”