Problems with the FAA’s certification and delegation processes impacted its oversight of the Boeing 737 MAX, according to the Office of Inspector General (OIG) for the Department of Transportation. In a report released on Tuesday, the OIG noted that the FAA and Boeing followed established processes with regards to certification of the MAX. However, the office found that limitations in FAA guidance and processes led to a “significant misunderstanding” of the aircraft’s maneuvering characteristics augmentation system (MCAS), which was identified as a contributing factor in the fatal crashes of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 and Lion Air Flight 610.
“First, FAA’s certification guidance does not adequately address integrating new technologies into existing aircraft models,” the OIG said in its report (PDF). “Second, FAA did not have a complete understanding of Boeing’s safety assessments performed on MCAS until after the first accident. Communication gaps further hindered the effectiveness of the certification process.”
The report further stated that weaknesses in FAA management and oversight interfered with the agency’s “ability to assess and mitigate risks” related to Boeing’s Organization Designation Authorization (ODA). The OIG put forward 14 recommendations to “improve FAA’s certification and ODA oversight processes” including updating rules to address the integration of technological advances and exceptions, establishing and implementing communication and coordination procedures between Boeing and FAA and revising ODA program requirements. According to the OIG, the FAA has concurred with all of its recommendations along with providing planned completion dates for actions to address them.