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Old 10th Feb 2021, 04:22
  #63 (permalink)  
Join Date: Jul 2013
Location: Everett, WA
Age: 65
Posts: 3,184
I'm going to give a contrary take - the problem is that the regulatory burden has soared to the point that everyone is looking for shortcuts, or you'll never get certified no matter how good the product.
The first flight of the 747 prototype was this day in 1969. Even though it was a revolutionary aircraft in size, propulsion, and avionics - and encountered numerous issues in flight test (flutter and engine surges to name two), it was certified and in-service before the end of 1969. That would have taken twice as long (at least) with todays regulations and processes - with a corresponding increase in costs.
In 1988, Boeing certified the 747-400. It had massive issues with avionics, EIS was months late, but the cert hurdles were - by today's standards - quite low. When I was working the 767-2C/KC-46 - we were using the same PW4000 engines that had been certified for the 767 and the 747-400 in 1988. So I sourced up the cert plan they'd used for the engine control system back then. Now, this cert plan covered the PW4000, the CF6-80C2 FADEC, and the RB211-524G/H engine control systems, for both the 767 and the 747-400. A total of six engine/airframe combinations (more if you count minor models of the 767 and various engine ratings). It was 30 pages long. My cert plan for the 767-2C engine control system - a derivative system for a single engine type on a single airframe - using the same hardware, with modified software and additional HIRF/Lightning/EMI hardening - was over 100 pages long. Then, over two years after that Cert Plan had been reviewed and accepted by the FAA - at the point where I thought I was just about done - the FAA suddenly decided it was insufficient - they needed additional man-years of documentation and analysis (far above and beyond what had been done originally - for a system with over 100 million flight hours of very safe in-service experience) that even the FAA admitted wasn't going to add anything to the system safety but would allow them to check some boxes. There have been something like 100 amendments to the FARS in the last 30 years (compared to about 40 in the previous 30 years). Yes, a few addressed shortcomings or updated the regulations to reflect current technology (e.g. FBW, FADEC, and carbon composite structures). But the vast majority have been bureaucratic make-work that increased the regulatory burden with zero contribution to safety.
The problem isn't a lack of regulatory oversight. The problem is that the regulators are not looking at the right things. It's a classic case of missing the forest because they are too busy looking at a tree.
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