The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on Tuesday announced that it soon issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) for an Airworthiness Directive (AD) affecting the Boeing 737 MAX. In keeping with its commitment to remain transparent, the NPRM will provide 45 days for the public to comment on proposed design changes and crew procedures to mitigate the safety issues identified during the investigations that followed the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines accidents.
The agency continues to follow a robust certification process. In addition to the standard FAA certification team, the 737 MAX Technical Advisory Board (TAB) continues to provide valuable review and consultation.
The FAA stasted that while the posting of the NPRM is an important milestone, a number of key steps remain including:
- JOEB Validation & FSB Review – Final planning is underway for the FAA’s Flight Standardization Board (FSB) and the Joint Operations Evaluation Board (JOEB) review of proposed training for flight crews, based on the design change and crew procedures. The results of this evaluation will be included in the updated Flight Standardization Board report, which will also be posted for public comment.
The JOEB will include regulators from Canada, Europe, and Brazil and will evaluate minimum pilot training requirements. The FSB will issue a draft report for public comment addressing the findings of the JOEB.
- Final FSB Report – The FAA will publish a final FSB report after reviewing and addressing public comments.
- Final Design Documentation and TAB Report – The FAA will review Boeing’s final design documentation to evaluate compliance with all FAA regulations. The multi-agency Technical Advisory Board will also review the final Boeing submission and issue a final report prior to a final determination of compliance by the FAA.
- CANIC & AD – The FAA will issue a Continued Airworthiness Notification to the International Community (CANIC) providing notice of pending significant safety actions and will publish a final Airworthiness Directive (AD) that addresses the known issues for grounding. The AD will advise operators of required corrective actions before aircraft may re-enter commercial service.
- FAA Rescinds Grounding Order – This marks the official ungrounding of the aircraft, pending completion by operators of the work specified in the AD, along with any required training.
- Certificates of Airworthiness – The FAA will retain its authority to issue airworthiness certificates and export certificates for all new 737 MAX airplanes manufactured since the grounding. The FAA will perform in-person, individual reviews of these aircraft.
- Operator Training Programs – The FAA will review and approve training programs for all Part 121 operators.
The FAA’s statement said that it will not speculate when the work will be completed, and will continue to follow a deliberate process taking the time it needs to thoroughly review Boeing’s work. The grounding order will be lifted only after agency’s safety experts are satisfied that the aircraft meets certification standards.
Typically, when the FAA invites the public to comment, it draws responses from interested parties in the industry, such as airline operators, pilot unions and engineering experts. With all the interest in the 737 MAX program, it is expected to see responses from people beyond the typical pool.