Research company Mitre is helping the Federal Aviation Administration determine the feasibility of using an independent third-party to oversee production at aerospace companies like Boeing.
The US non-profit firm confirms it is conducting the review for the FAA, which is taking steps to heighten its oversight of Boeing following the 5 January in-flight failure of an Alaska Airlines 737 Max 9’s door plug.
“At the request of the FAA, Mitre will conduct an independent assessment of the FAA Aircraft Safety Oversight process,” says vice-president and director of Mitre’s Center for Integrated Transportation Kerry Buckley.
Mitre is a research corporation that operates research centres for the US government and that specialises in aviation. It has conducted prior studies for the FAA.
“Our work will identify opportunities to introduce third-party independent reviews in the production process and eliminating conflict of interest,” Buckley adds. “The results of our assessment will inform FAA actions.”
Mitre does not specifically mention Boeing.
But on 5 February, FAA administrator Michael Whitaker told lawmakers that the agency had hired Mitre ”to give us a view on what the options are”.
He was responding to a question about whether the FAA was re-evaluating its oversight of Boeing following the 5 January 737 Max 9 incident.
The Mitre study reveals the FAA may be seriously considering changes aimed at bolstering the self-regulatory oversight model under which it regulates Boeing and many other aerospace manufacturers.
That model, called Organisation Delegation Authorization, grants manufacturers a high degree of self-regulation, allowing manufacturers to confirm their compliance with certification and other FAA rules.
The ODA process came under intense scrutiny following two 737 Max crashes, in 2018 and 2019. Those accidents revealed that the FAA had approved a flight-control system that critics say it never should have green-lighted.
Critics say the ODA process is rife with conflicts of interest.
The ODA method is facing fresh scrutiny following the Alaska 737 Max 9 incident, which the National Transportation Safety Board says was caused by Boeing failing to attach bolts to a door plug.