Boeing needs a “systemic fix to their production processes”, according to outgoing Federal Aviation Administration chief Stephen Dickson.

The comments come soon after the FAA confirmed on Tuesday that Boeing would not be permitted to self-certify new Boeing 787s in what is being seen as an ever-increasing level of oversight by the government agency.

Since May 2021, Boeing has not delivered a single 787, as safety regulators suspended deliveries for a second time as a result of production flaws being identified, including unsatisfactory gaps between fuselage panels.

Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner
As of December 2021, over 100 787s await certification by the FAA | © André Du-pont / Wikimedia Commons

For decades the aviation industry used a system in which specially appointed employees at aircraft manufacturing companies conducted the final certification inspections of new aircraft. The FAA then reviewed these reports. In the wake of the Boeing 737 Max crisis, responsible for the deaths of 346 people, the practice came to be widely condemned.

Both crashes involved in the crisis were declared to have been caused by a faulty automated flight control system. Employees at Boeing have been accused of deceiving regulators throughout the development of said system, and the FAA has been accused of inattentive supervision of the manufacturer. After the crisis the FAA immediately retained final certification authority for every new 737 Max produced.

Conditions required for self-certification

The FAA has since outlined the measures required to be in place before they consider the return of the final inspection authority to Boeing:

  • The manufacturer must consistently produce 787s that meet FAA design standards
  • The manufacturer must outline a robust plan for the modifications it must undertake on a large volume of 787s in storage
  • The manufacturer’s delivery processes must be stable

As of December 2021, Boeing had over 100 of its 787s manufactured but still awaiting certification.

Boeing said in a statement: “We respect the FAA’s role as our regulator and we will continue to work transparently through their detailed and rigorous processes. Safety is the top priority for everyone in our industry.”

How soon is the FAA likely to return certification authority to Boeing? Or would you prefer the FAA to continue certifying aircraft themselves in perpetuity? Let us know in the comments below.

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