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Inspector General report says Boeing shielded key 737 Max details from FAA

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Inspector General report says Boeing shielded key 737 Max details from FAA

Old 3rd Jul 2020, 13:26
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Inspector General report says Boeing shielded key 737 Max details from FAA

Here are a few links to the story. Though, I'd like to read the actual report. Has anyone seen a link to the actual report? I went to the DOT and FAA sites and couldn't find it.


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Old 3rd Jul 2020, 13:55
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This report is not due to be released until later today in the US. I suspect the media have been given an early view under non-disclosure,

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Old 3rd Jul 2020, 14:15
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I was able to find this on the IG website, but I'm not sure this is the report they are referencing, It does have a date of 6/29/20


It's interesting that they are not making any recommendations.
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Old 3rd Jul 2020, 14:43
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That is the I.G. report, the link to which was posted in a related thread a few days ago.

The I.G. states specifically that its review and this report were for the purpose of detailing the "what" of the certification process, in accordance with the Secretary's request as well as those from the Congress. And this report notes that any recommendations will be in later reports.

There are two reasons for this scope. First, the process is still underway. That is, until FAA completes the multi-step process it has outlined to return the derivative model to airworthiness status and to service - the test flights this week are just the opening step - it would be premature for the I.G. to issue internally-sourced recommendations. Plus, EASA, Canada and possibly other regulatory authorities also need to complete their work, prior to a full picture being in place.

Second, the I.G. isn't willingly going to extend outside its primary competencies. With the JATR, the Secretary's Special Committee, and if I'm recalling properly at least one or two other post-accident reviews of the process already done, the I.G. isn't going to masquerade as aeronautical engineering expertise internal to the bureaucracy. Even more so, when legislation already is percolating in both the House and Senate -- the I.G. most definitely will not want to issue recommendations until it has all, or very substantially all, of the dedicated (official) aeronautical expertise groups on record. A lot is riding on what emerges from the committees, both in the House and on the Senate side, and I.G.s at this level aren't politically tone deaf.
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Old 3rd Jul 2020, 14:44
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You have to read a little ways into the article to get more complete information:

It noted that 42 FAA employees oversee 1,500 Boeing employees with certification authority. Internal Boeing documents previously released showed Boeing employees, including a key official in the certification effort, mocking the agency and slamming the aircraft's design.

The document notes that Boeing and the FAA were looking into "concerns about undue pressure on" Boeing employees who had FAA authority to sign off on aspects of the plane. It said that future reports on the delegation process would be forthcoming.
42 FAA employees, and 1500 (a fraction of the total Boeing workforce) Boeing employees. More central to the facts of the matter, and the article, is that the 1500 "Boeing employees who had FAA authority to sign off", are, as subtly mentioned, delegated by the FAA. So, though they receive a paycheque from Boeing, they are (within the scope of their FAA delegation) responsible to the FAA, not Boeing - they wear two hats on the job. Each person is individually evaluated by the FAA under 14CFR 183.29, and is accountable to the FAA for the findings of design compliance that they make as a delegate of the FAA. Though these delegates of the FAA are employed by Boeing (or any of a number of other similar organizations), they are not "Boeing". In theory, Boeing has to approach the applicable delegate for their signoff on a design change, just as they would approach the FAA.

So, why does the FAA delegate to a company employee? Because the FAA realizes that while carrying out its role to support and promote an aviation industry, it cannot possibly afford to pay the salaries of all of the people required to evaluate and find compliance with an aircraft design. 1500 government salaries, as opposed to 42 - just for Boeing? That would be a lot of tax dollars? And, the concept of delegation goes much farther than just findings of design compliance for certification, how common is it that a flight test, or other pilot ride is with an FAA employee? Know knows of an FAA employee issuing a C of A for an aircraft, or doing an import/export inspection? The FAA delegates lots - just this is in the spotlight, and for good reason.

What Boeing and the Boeing employed FAA delegates did during the certification effort of the MCAS obviously missed the mark. The FAA employees were apparently unaware. But this:

The report also faults the Federal Aviation Administration for poor communication and notes it handed over the vast majority -- 87% -- of certification responsibility to Boeing.
Misrepresents what actually happened. The 87% certification responsibility was not handed over to Boeing, zero responsibility was handed over to Boeing. the 87% responsibility was handled by FAA delegates (1500, it seems), who are accountable to the FAA for their work, and are paid by Boeing. I expect that some account will be taken of this, as there will be records and signoffs....
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Old 3rd Jul 2020, 14:51
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It looks to me on the surface that there was a breakdown in the safety analysis by Boeing.

Typically design engineers address all kinds of failure conditions and are just as good at assuming that all kinds of mitigating features that reinforce the idea that it's still safe.
it's up to the flight test program to validate these assumptions. Somewhere along this line there was break.

I can't believe that the FAA oversight has the knowledge to fulfill this gap, other than themselves developing a flight test program that is unworkable with the resources at hand. The best the regulator can do is to detect any breaks in the Manufacturers safety systems

I can't see how the regulator can manage this except by reviewing the safety systems of the manufacturer in a test validation program
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Old 3rd Jul 2020, 14:54
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Originally Posted by 9 lives View Post
So, why does the FAA delegate to a company employee?
Bit like asking why the doctor you go to for your medical is not employed by the regulator.

Being in an industry position as a DER keeps them up to date with emerging technology. No different to a doctor that sees a wide variety of patients.
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Old 3rd Jul 2020, 15:00
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Anything a bit contentious will be released later today especially on a Friday so its doesn't get much press coverage and this weekend is a holiday

Thats the way its done
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Old 3rd Jul 2020, 17:37
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Much of what has been written above is applicable to a DER system but not to an ODA. There are very important distinctions between the DER system under 14 CFR 183.29, and the ODA system that Boeing has under 183.63. Unlike in the DER system, the ODA unit members at Boeing (the people making compliance findings) are isolated from the FAA staff to a significant extent, and are not directly overseen or supervised by FAA staff.

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Old 3rd Jul 2020, 18:38
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That 42/1500 number is somewhat misleading. First off, 1500 is the number of Authorized employees company wide - only a fraction of those are involved with the MAX. Second, as 9 lives notes, many of those are involved in relatively mundane tasks - conformity inspections, paperwork approvals, etc. - stuff that is pretty much black or white and doesn't require much judgement. The number of "Authorized Representative" - AR's (the delegated equivalent of a Delegated Engineering Representative or DER) - the engineers that can make findings of compliance with the regulations - is less than half that number (when I was there the number of AR's was around 500 - 600: it may have gone up since I left but it's certainly not 1,500). For the most part it's those ~500 or so ARs that overseen by those 42 FAA types.

Loma - one of the things that shocked me when I read that article was that the FAA delegated all the safety analysis for the MAX (at least for the flight controls). I did a number of projects - including two new "minor models" (747-8 and 767-2C) and I never had a safety analysis delegated - they were all FAA retained and required at least 3 months prior to the planned first flight (and I know the FAA read them because they asked me questions and for clarifications on the analysis's.)

All that being said - I saw some major flaws in the way the ODA was set up - the biggest being that the ARs were never supposed to contact the FAA when unsure about something. I could respond to FAA queries, but wasn't supposed to 'cold call' the FAA. When we did what was supposed to be the final certification flight test of my system on the 747-8, we had an unexpected result (long story - but turned out it wasn't my system at fault). During the post flight, the FAA pilot asked me to let him know what we found when we investigated the anomaly - I responded "so you're asking me to call you". He gave me a funny look, so I said "just say yes". Now he was really confused - then the FAA analyst who'd also been on the flight told him I wasn't allowed to call him unless I was responding to an FAA query as part of the ODA. The FAA pilot was aghast that I couldn't simply call him to talk, but immediately said yes, 'Call me and let me know when you figure it out'...
Dumb, dumb system.
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Old 3rd Jul 2020, 20:21
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Note that the news reports about the US DOT IG report reach conclusions and offer judgements not found in the IG report. Phrases like “shielded,” “withheld,” “faulted,” and “kept in the dark” do not appear in the IG report.

One interesting point in the IG report is that FAA test pilots were aware of the evolving MCAS characteristics but the FAA certification engineers were not.
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Old 3rd Jul 2020, 20:43
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Other authorities are similar. It stops the authorities being drawn in to the decision making process. If they did, they'd be compromised from a regulatory standpoint. Pretty much its a case of there's CS.25 / US equivalent interpret as you see fit and we'll decide if you got it right during the certification process.
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Old 3rd Jul 2020, 22:08
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Except it wasn't that way prior to the ODA. When I was a DER, I had an FAA advisor, and I could call her and ask her questions about what the FAA wanted to see or the best way to certify something. I didn't ask her the best way to design something, but I could ask her if a planned change would be considered acceptable, or what the FAA would want to see to certify a planned change.
Under the ODA I just had to guess at what the FAA would want - write the cert plan accordingly and submit it - then have the FAA reject it if they didn't like my plan. If I didn't agree with the FAA decision and wanted to talk about it - to explain why I thought what I wanted to do was appropriate - I had to go to the ODA, schedule a meeting with the ODA to explain what I wanted to do and why (explaining it to a bunch of top level bureaucrats that often didn't have a clue what I was talking about), get their blessing to approach the FAA, have them set up a meeting with the FAA, then go meet with the FAA to get a decision. In short it would cost me weeks of work because I couldn't make a 5 minute phone call.
Like I said - dumb...
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Old 3rd Jul 2020, 23:44
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I agree, the process you are/were subject to sounds particularly inefficient. But I can see why they do it.
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Old 4th Jul 2020, 00:40
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At the risk of throwing a hand grenade - how do European (and the FAA) monitor and certify Airbus?
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Old 4th Jul 2020, 03:05
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Prior to the ODA equivalent system here in Canada, I worked for a Canadian aircraft manufacturer. The relationship of the delegated persons (DE's) in the organization and Transport Canada seemed to have some of the inefficiencies that tdracer describes. I remember thinking to myself that it must be difficult for the DE to harmonize, and execute the authority's policies, if communication about interpretation and criteria was so awkward.

As I am now a private delegate, I happily communicate directly, and several times a week usually, with my Transport Canada Engineer. We have an excellent relationship of exchange of information, and opinion, and I am able to receive clarification and interpretation of Transport Canada policies easily, so I can carry out my delegated functions as closely as TC would were they doing it. There have been times that I have asked for help, or involvement even though I'm delegated, simply to assure that what I'm doing most closely harmonizes with expectations, particularly on international projects.

So, to hear that delegates working within Boeing have poor opportunity for direct communication with the FAA is not surprising, but still saddening. The regulator delegates to broaden the regulator's capacity, and expertise. Surely more direct communication allows the regulator to grow skills and familiarity with the certification methods and criteria, particularly as new and novel systems and features become more common. The direct interaction between a delegate and the authority also serves to remind the delegate who delegated them, and inspire them to represent the authority's interest over that of their employer - after all, the authority's interest is society's interest! There have been a few times, where a client's engineer has tried to tell me how to apply and interpret the standards. I'll listen, as maybe I'll learn something, but ultimately, I'll explain that I represent Transport Canada's (and society's) interest in a compliant product before I yield to the commercial pressure my client may feel they are experiencing. When in doubt, I'll call my TC Engineer, and I always feel directly supported in the conclusion we reach - resulting from good, direct, communication.
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Old 4th Jul 2020, 08:57
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PAXboy, #15,
From very dated experiences, the FAA stood apart from other authorities, though some who attempted to mimic them had similar traits.
Roots are deep and long lasting. The critical difference was with trust - partnership; the FAA process had an inbuilt need to be the dominating, rule-based culture, which organisationally lacked (or constrained) common sense, innovation, lateral thinking.

The individual engineering and piloting abilities were high, very capable people; you felt sorry for them. In their own fields world leaders, but restricted 'by the the book'.
Professionally it was possible exchange informal views with these 'experts', however associations and friendships were challenged by over-shadowing officialdom.

The majority of world-wide regulation and approvals were founded on mutual respect, interchange of expertise, guidance, but never outside the final formal approval process - rarely rejected because everyone understood the rules, interpretations, and the 'line in the sand', which had been agreed beforehand.
The objective was to be safe, opposed to the FAA need to tick boxes and meet the rules.

The US process absolved the FAA from ultimate 'responsibility'; the law-makers made the rules, if the rules were inappropriate then that's not the FAA's fault. So as long the FAA could show that the rules were met, then they were covered - job done.

Its now ironic that the law-makers are reporting on the FAA, an element in a process for which they, the assessors, hold governing responsibility. Not likely to blame themselves, thus a 'soft' report without recommendation for structural change - not to damage themselves, their image, their culture.
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Old 4th Jul 2020, 10:50
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Originally Posted by PAXboy View Post
At the risk of throwing a hand grenade - how do European (and the FAA) monitor and certify Airbus?
A somewhat similar process.
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Old 4th Jul 2020, 12:16
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Please, no so fast with regard to the I.G. report

A few things to note about the I.G. report, mostly in reply to some of the comments in post by alf5071h. In general, the I.G. of the Dep't of Transportation is not a law-maker, and while the internal "watchdog" function certainly works closely with Capitol Hill offices (members as well as committee staffs) it wields only influence, a voice, and not a vote or a veto. So finding fault in the report because it holds short of offering recommendations, and then attaching that fault to Congress, is a bit of a misunderstanding.

Moreover, though, the report is very, very explicit about it being only the first part of an overall response by DOT I.G. to the 737 MAX debacle and tragedies. I'm going to list the main ways in which this is made unmistakable.

First, the "Highlights" page states that I.G. "will report further" at a later time. (And note, the title of the report itself leaves the timeline open, " . . . After the Lion Air 610 Accident", rather than referencing a particular end-point in the federal government response overall.)

Secondly see page 2, where the transmittal memo from the I.G. to the FAA Administrator states as follows (emphasis added):
"This is the first report that the Office of Inspector General (OIG) is providing related to these requests. Our overall audit objective was to determine and evaluate FAA’s process for certifying the Boeing 737 MAX series of aircraft. In this report, in response to the Secretary’s request, we provide a detailed timeline of the activities resulting in the certification of the 737 MAX 8. In addition, in response to multiple congressional requests, this report includes timelines of events following the October 2018 Lion Air crash up until the March 2019 Ethiopian Air crash and concurrent related oversight actions and events related to FAA’s ODA program. We are also undertaking additional analyses of FAA’s processes for certifying the 737 MAX 8 aircraft, including its use of the ODA program, as well as examining FAA’s actions following the Ethiopian Air crash. We will report on the results of these and other related reviews in future reports."

Third, and quite conceivably most significantly, on page 10 in the summary section of the report, the I.G. states the following (emphasis added):
"Given that we have an open recommendation for FAA related to ODA and that we are planning additional analysis of FAA’s certification process and the use of the ODA program for the 737 MAX 8 aircraft, we are not making recommendations in this report.The data gathered are informational and represent our observations in response to the Secretary’s and other congressional requests. We will report further on FAA’s oversight of the certification process and other related matters, as well as make recommendations as applicable, in future reports."

The extra emphasis I've added to some of that paragraph stems from the report's preceding paragraph (p.9-10), which states - and I confess this was news to this observer - not only had Boeing paid a 12 million dollar civil penalty for ODA program non-compliance in December 2015, but there also was another non-compliance issue as of November 2018 which the report states is "ongoing". Perhaps not earth-shattering in the light of the debacle and tragedies which occurred . . . but as a former general counsel I have to read this language by the I.G. in conjunction with the memo from the DOT General Counsel which is appended to the report. The DOT and FAA have more than one policy and law-making, and litigation, game in town in which the old governmental wisdom has very much taken hold: You either have a seat at the table, or you're on the menu. (My G.C. role was with an entity tiny and mostly insignificant compared to FAA, but the mind-set is quite standard.)

What I'm driving at, is that Boeing's difficulties with FAA are broader than what has gone badly wrong with the ill-fated 737 MAX certification. It is facing also significant legislative proposals to reconfigure broadly the certification process (both the House and Senate); a tenacious litigant in records disclosure litigation in Washington federal district court; and a growing roster of liability lawsuits by family members of accident victims, and by pilots, and flight attendants. In this context, the I.G. of the U.S. Dep't of Transportation would not, unless an individual of reeking and rank incompetence, make recommendations until the full inquiry is completed, and in all probability, a lot more of the above-referenced table has been set.
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Old 4th Jul 2020, 16:04
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Boeing paid a 12 million dollar civil penalty for ODA program non-compliance in December 2015
Interesting. As delegation (organizationally, or personally) is a privilege, it can be reduced (more oversight, less delegation) or, withdrawn if misued. I suppose a fine is a way to punish, while allowing the delegation privilege to remain. Perhaps reduction/withdrawal of delegation privilege would be more persuasive in the case of misuse....
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