IATA: Airlines face challenges of regulatory rift beyond MAX grounding


The decisions surrounding the global grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX fleet created an unprecedented rift between the world’s civil aviation authorities which threatens to impact the certification process even after the MAX eventually returns to the skies.

Airlines and manufacturers both rely on the harmonization of regulations that have been ongoing for decades and the mutual acceptance of certificates of approval. While regulators have maintained their independence and sovereignty to question technical details and approvals where there is disagreement, the continuous dialogue and respect between them has helped set standards that expedite the development of new products and technologies and services.

From the moment that regulators disregarded the FAA’s advisory on the MAX following the Ethiopian Airlines crash, and chose instead to ground the plane in their jurisdictions regardless of the FAA’s opinion, RGN writers, including yours truly, warned that finding mutual accord in the future could be difficult.

During an address at the IATA General Assembly in Seoul, IATA CEO Alexandre de Juniac echoed some of those concerns, saying:

Trust in the certification system has been damaged – among regulators, between regulators and the industry and with the flying public. Everyone must be confident that processes are sufficiently thorough not to warrant duplicative and redundant examinations jurisdiction by jurisdiction. While Boeing and the US Federal Aviation Administration are at center stage, the close collaboration of counterpart manufacturers and civil aviation authorities around the world is essential. Any rift between regulators is not in anybody’s interest.

What could a rift mean for airlines and manufacturers in the future?

The greater scrutiny on the FAA’s certification and approval process for aircraft – stemming from questions surrounding the process employed for the 737 MAX – might result in other regulators questioning the technical details submitted to them by manufacturers and previously approved by the FAA.

“We have seen some indications that some authorities – and they have the right to do so – may decide to act on their own. Once the 737 MAX is initially authorized by the certifying authority – which in this case is the FAA – they may decide whatever they want…to review the whole process…to do it again if they want,” IATA senior vice president safety and flight operations Gilberto Lopez Meyer told RGN during the IATA AGM.

“This is a big concern for me because the growth of the industry in the last decades has been based on what we call mutual recognition. I have a license issued by the European authority and I can fly anywhere in the world with that license. I have an airplane that is certified in one country, I can fly anywhere in the world with that aircraft. So mutual recognition is very important for the development of this industry. But this unusually complex – this unprecedented situation – could eventually jeopardize the stability of that system.”

Lopez Meyer also said he sees good signs in that dialogue continues among regulators, even supported by meetings organized by the FAA.

IATA, however, is not relying on the FAA alone to spur the dialogue. The airline association had a meeting of regulators and 737 MAX operators/buyers on 23 May to discuss the various questions raised by the grounding, including regulatory coordination. A follow-up meeting is planned for this month.

“Honestly, what we believe is that we are seeing a temporary situation. Because, in the end, we all know that this industry cannot work if we don’t have this system that has been built through more than 70 years of working,” Lopez Meyer told RGN.

“The more we communicate, the better it’s going to be.”

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  1. Bob Braan

    Muilenburg said Boeing “fell short”. Try criminally negligent. In other countries he would be in jail.
    The FAA and Boeing said they needed more data to ground the brand new planes after two crashes and 346 dead. How much more data does it take to ground planes in the US? 3 crashes? 4? 1000+ dead? Guaranteed if they were allowed to keep flying there would be another crash. Maybe in the US this time. The only reason the first two crashes were not in the US was 80% of the 737 Max aircraft are not in the US.

  2. Bob Braan

    Both Boeing and the FAA said the plane was safe originally and also safe after almost every other country had grounded it after two crashes.
    Why would anyone believe anything they have to say about safety now?
    They used to be the safest in the world. Now it’s all about profits so we are on our own for safety.

    The safest thing is to just avoid the 737 Max.

    I usually fly Delta. They don’t have any 737 Max aircraft. They should advertise that fact. Google “Southwest Airlines is going to allow people who don’t want to fly on the Boeing 737 Max to switch planes for free”. United as well so far. Hopefully all other airlines allow passengers to avoid the 737 Max for free as well.

    If passengers refuse to board the 737 Max it will go away. Chopped up for scrap. Unable to kill any more customers.

    The original plan at Boeing was to create a proper, clean sheet new design to replace the 737. It’s not designed for modern engines at all which is where the problem started. Boeing planned to finally kill this dinosaur from the 60s. Instead upper management and sales killed this idea as well as 346 passengers.

    Boeing CEO Muilenburg said Boeing fell short. Try criminally negligent. He should be in jail. In other countries that’s where he would be.