FAA Takes Over All New MAX Airworthiness Certifications


The FAA will now be the sole issuer of airworthiness certificates for all newly manufactured Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, the agency said in a letter to Boeing on Tuesday. Citing “public interest and safety in air commerce,” the FAA stated that it would retain that authority—which was previously delegated to Boeing through the organization designation authorization (ODA) program—until it believes the manufacturer has “fully functional quality control and verification processes in place; delivery processes are similarly functional and stable; and Boeing’s 737 MAX compliance, design, and production processes meet all regulatory standards and conditions for delegation and ensure the safety of the public.”

The MAX was grounded last March following the fatal crashes of Lion Air Flight 610 on Oct. 29, 2018, and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 on March 10, 2019, both 737 MAX 8 aircraft. As previously reported by AVweb, Boeing was hopeful that the aircraft could be ungrounded as early as December and airlines including Southwest and American are currently planning to begin using their MAX fleets again in March. The FAA and Administrator Stephen Dickson have repeatedly stated that the agency will not be following a prescribed timeline for returning the 737 MAX to service and will do so only once it has been determined the model is safe.

Kate O'Connor
Kate O’Connor works as AVweb's Editor-in-Chief. She is a private pilot, certificated aircraft dispatcher, and graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

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  1. Political theatre.
    The Agency lacks the manpower to do this, just as Boeing does.
    There’s a 10-month backlog of production, parked on ramps. And the beat goes on, to the tune of about 45 units per month.
    This should be interesting.

  2. Something strange in this story. The ODA reviews and approves design data, not manufacturing quality. Is the FAA revoking Boeings production certificate for the 737 model? I did not think that the build quality of the airframes was ever a question or factor in the recent accidents. Or is this something the FAA is doing “because they can” and it’s just for show?

  3. Does this mean that the FAA has to inspect and recertify all the planes already out in service? If so, this could be a major delay to the airlies trying to work them back into their active fleets. Plus, it means the grounded production waiting to enter operation may be months away. YARS is right, this is a typical PR move to make the public feel better, but will cause huge delays to the whole process. The FAA Administrator has promised to be the first to fly the MAX before signoff. Is he going to fly each one?

    • Last I heard, the FAA would only approve new 737 MAX. I believe it means only new ones built as of now and not those parked. I’m not sure sure how that is supposed to work. Perhaps they are approving Boeing’s new Max’s and recertifying the older ones according to the work and changes Boeing did on the new ones?

      It needs more clarifications.

  4. An albeit far too late reminder that corporations ought never be allowed to control or attempt implementation of regulation without genuine independent oversight. Ludicrous that it should ever have been otherwise. In aviation, shortcuts cost lives, and it has always been thus.

    • You’re drinking the Agency’s Kool Aid, by conflating self-regulation of design (MCAS), with self-regulation of (production) conformance – two completely different topics.

      Throughout this entire shabby saga, no one has asserted that production MAX aircraft failed to conform to their APPROVED design and production criteria. The FAA’s newly-announced post-manufacture inspections will have the purpose of ensuring conformance – NOT of challenging Boeing’s design.

    • Boeing had a vested interest in producing a safe product, and ODA has worked well. In our company, the ODA people do function as an independent oversight. Note that the government is neither, ever.

  5. Some reasonable and some unreasonable points made in the comments so far.
    Boeing had the Goose that laid the Golden Egg on its’ nest and managed to slay it over profit motive. Between pushing aircraft in sub-standard production quality out the door and this engineering debacle Boeing has become the shining example of what not to do. Bean counters (or stock price pushers) have a necessary position in any large company, especially manufacturers. They, however, should NEVER be allowed to push the “bottom line” over quality in something like transportation methods. A good “bad example” if you will, is the auto industry of the late 60’s and early 70’s. American manufacturers pushed low quality vehicles out the doors for profit, those vehicles failed way too soon, and the result was the rise in quality and popularity of foreign made vehicles in the US.
    Quality should always, repeat always be the single goal for manufacturers, especially those that make the vehicles that take humans up into the lower stratosphere. Boeing’s bottom line has been significantly damaged for the foreseeable future over the 737 Max issues and the KC-46, and other quality issues. Good job bean counters.

  6. The FAA better be careful. If they use their power to obstruct the Max’s return to service far beyond the point where the aircraft’s design problems have been resolved, the job losses and damage to Boeing as a company will blow back in the FAA’s face. Existing military contracts will be jeopardized, and the public will turn against the FAA. It appears that their description of the duties they are taking back goes far beyond what the ODA actually did. EVERYTHING that big runs on a schedule. For the FAA to say there is no timeline for safety is meant for public consumption. The old paradigm is the FAA abrogated it’s oversight responsibility, and they are still operating on that basis when if fact it’s shifted to FAA the obstacle. The first signs of mass layoffs at Boeing will hit the FAA like a goose creaming an AOA sensor.

    • Rick, I believe the ODA was an act of Congress not the FAA relegating its power necessarily. The way I understand it, Congress again denied budget increases for the FAA which led to the creation of the ODA giving a private company much leeway to certify its plane. Correct me if I’m wrong, please.

  7. The 737 MAX may never fly again given that the most bureaucratic organization in the country now has her fate in their hands!