US aviation regulator vows to closely scrutinise Boeing 777X certification

Regulator reiterated it would take its time in inspecting the grounded 737 Max

Dubai, United Arab Emirates - November 20, 2019: Round table with Steve Dickson, Federal aviation administration administrator. Wednesday, November 20th, 2017 at Dubai Airshow, Dubai. Chris Whiteoak / The National
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The US aviation regulator said the certification of Boeing’s new 777X wide-body will undergo careful inspection before it enters into service.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) met Emirates, the biggest customer of the 777X, and had an “excellent dialogue”, Steve Dickson, the FAA’s administrator, told reporters on Wednesday during a press briefing at the Dubai Airshow.

“The 777x is something we will be scrutinising more carefully,” Mr Dickson said, in light of the grounding of Boeing's 737 Max in March this year after the narrowbody jet was involved in two deadly crashes in Ethiopia and Indonesia.

“There will be more emphasis on making sure the systems are more evolved across the entire product and not looking at issues in a fragmented fashion.”

The comments come after Emirates said it wants the 777X to be tested for 14 to 16 months to ensure it meets performance and safety expectations.

On Boeing’s grounded 737 Max, the FAA chief reiterated that the regulator will take its time to assess the changes to the jet’s software and declined to provide a timeline for the Max's return to service.

The fallout from the 737 Max tragedies raised questions about the jet's certification process and the relationship between the US plane maker and the regulator.

The FAA will address key themes emerging on aircraft certification in the light of the Max crisis, taking a more “holistic approach” and integrating human factors into the design process as aircraft become more automated.

"Although aviation is the safest form of transportation, what we have done right now is not going to be good enough for the future," Mr Dickson said.

The FAA has held “very constructive” meetings with flydubai, the largest 737 Max operator outside the US, and the UAE aviation regulator to update them on its audit of the 737 Max, Mr Dickson said.

"The message is first of all I'm going to fly the airplane before I sign off on it and we're going to follow the process," he told The National.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA), an airline lobby group, has voiced concerns about the rift among global regulators on the steps and timeline to return the 737 Max to commercial service.
"We share that concern," Mr Dickson said, adding that the FAA is working closely with other regulators.

The FAA is evaluating Boeing's software changes to the Max's in-flight control system, which was implicated in both crashes, and the new chief has held talks with 50 global regulators in the last two months to make sure they're technically aligned.

"I’m very confident as we work towards the process of design approval that there’s going to be solid alignment," he said. "That doesn’t mean the ungrounding decision is right on the same day because there are different regulatory process [worldwide]."