WASHINGTON (Reuters) – It costs $1.8 billion and 10,000 new workers for the U.S. aviation regulator to handle all of the aircraft certification internally, the agency’s chief told a Senate panel on Wednesday, answering questions after two Boeing 737 MAX hangs on how new aircraft are approved for flight.
FILE PHOTO: FILE PHOTO: An aerial photo shows the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft parked on the tarmac at the Boeing Factory in Renton, Washington, USA, 21 March, 2019. REUTERS/Lindsey Wasson/File Photo
The Federal Aviation Administration delegates much of the work of aircraft certification to manufacturers such as Boeing under a decades-old process.
The FAA acting head Daniel Elwell was asked why the FAA did not require the publication of a new anti-stall system in flight manuals or new pilot-training for the certified now grounded 737 MAX passenger jet in 2017.
Boeing said on Wednesday that the re-programmed software on the 737 MAX passenger jet in order to prevent erroneous data from the triggering of an anti-stall system that is increasingly under control after the two deadly nose down crashes.
The planemaker said that the anti-stall system, which is believed to have repeatedly forced the nose down in at least one of the accidents, in Indonesia in October last year, just after the feel of a problem, making the pilots more control.
Elwell also said that a warning to the pilots that Boeing is standard on all 737 MAX aircraft as part of a software upgrade is not “safety critical.” Boeing will stop charging for that alert, and another is still optional indicator.
“I find it hard to believe that a safety company, like an airline would be a savings of a few thousand dollars on an option, that would improve security,” Elwell said, who defended the decision not to require new training after it was tested by the pilots.
“In fact, the plane layout, the handling and the performance of the aircraft was the same,” Elwell said.
In a separate interview on Wednesday, the U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao asked why Boeing did not require the safety devices on the top-selling 737 MAX, which could have prevented the crashes.
“It is very doubtful whether these were safety-oriented additions, why they were not part of the desired template of measures that need to go in a plane,” Chao said, who added she was not ready to require that all safety options are built on existing aircraft.
Shortly after the Chao said, Boeing confirmed the company will, by default, a part of the security on the 737 MAX, which might be warned earlier of any problems that may have played a role in the accidents of Indonesian and Ethiopian planes that killed almost 350 people.
Senator Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat, said she was considering the introduction of a bill that would require key “safety equipment” to be included in the base aircraft selling expenses.
Senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat and the pilot, questioned Chao why it took the FAA so long to the land of the 737 MAX while regulators around the world moved faster to halt the aircraft.
- FAA tells U.S. Senate it would need 10,000 new workers, $1.8 billion to take certification
He also questioned why the safety mechanisms cannot be imposed by Boeing or the FAA. “It seems that we are following,” Manchin said, adding that it was “simply wrong” did not need the warning.
At a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing on the transportation department’s budget, Chao said that the matter will be assessed by an external commission and the department of the inspector-general.
Chao said: “it is worrying that if it was indeed a part of the safety that it was not included.”
Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Nick Zieminski and Grant McCool