On Thursday, May 23rd the FAA is convening a meeting in Dallas with regulators from around the world. That’s what American Airlines CEO Doug Parker told the airline’s employees in his most recent Crew News question and answer session.
He explained “at that time the FAA is going to show the other regulators their views on the fix.” He says that the FAA “will be at least very close to re-certifying the aircraft, weeks not months.”
So they’re bringing together regulators from other countries “they’re doing that of course because they would like to see others come along.” However no one expects everyone to jump on board. And Parker says it’s political,
I believe they know – again I’m speaking for people I don’t know exactly what they’re gonna, politics do unfortunately get involved and I don’t mean that in a pejorative way it’s really important right now because of what’s happened it feel right to everyone so politics are important.
[The FAA is] hopeful that at least some other regulators will come to the same conclusion based on what they see and learn.
I know they know with relative certainty they won’t get everyone because politics are at play so there will be some parts of the world, I guess I should be fair to them, they may not come to the same conclusion. I think some of that will be because of their politics.
The purpose of the May 23 meeting, according to Parker, is “to really get to the point of showing the rest of the world we’re getting close to re-certifying and hopefully others will too.”
The FAA isn’t going to want to be the only one re-certifying the aircraft. Airlines and Boeing are going to want a united front with everyone – or nearly everyone – telling the world the aircraft is safe to fly.
However there are going to be some countries holding out. There may be genuine hold outs, with concerns over safety, and there may be some who either view it as politically advantageous to see continuing damage to a high profile American company like Boeing, or who see an opportunity to extract diplomatic concessions from the U.S. in exchange for participation. (There may also simply be some lack of trust in FAA and Boeing processes at this point, since the manufacturer’s designing and FAA’s signing off on something as significant as MCAS vulnerable to a single point of failure and making redundancy an optional add-on was clearly an error.)
It’s an open question how much worldwide support is enough for the FAA, which appears itself to be ready to give the MAX the green light to fly again, to make that decision public.
Parker doesn’t know the answer to that, offering “I don’t know what they will need to decide it’s a critical mass but that’s the plan, it would certainly be helpful to have more than just the FAA decide it should be recertified, the FAA understands that.”
However he believes that the aircraft is safe — and was even without any changes. In response to another pilot’s question he shared his belief that
[T]hat aircraft is airworthy, and was even after the Ethiopian accident…we have pilots who take the time to care first and foremost about safety and make certain they know everything the airplane that they’re in charge of that they know what it does and doesn’t do, they have great confidence in the other person in the cockpit with them that they’ve been through the exact same..training.. our pilots, our training, our aircraft, that aircraft was airworthy even with the prior software.
He said “the aircraft will get back to flying” and “there will be efforts to assure the flying public that it’s safe..Boeing will be doing things, I imagine the FAA.. letting everyone know this aircraft is 100% safe.” And he said he’ll “be on it” when it’s re-certified and “you’ll be seeing things like us taking first flights.”
I do believe the aircraft is safe, but that Boeing made real errors in judgment and appears not to have executed production of the aircraft fully consistent with the specifications they certified to the FAA. Self-certification isn’t new, and the FAA seemingly can’t have enough expertise, but self-certification appears to have failed here.
The best versions of the aircraft and the best trained pilots likely make up for that, but the manufacturer had to face disasters to realize the built-in inadequacies as the plane is used across all carriers and settings. That’s a true shame, but one that will likely be rectified.