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Regulators urged to distance themselves from airframers

Aviation regulators need to distance themselves from aircraft manufacturers in order to earn back the confidence of the industry and customers, argued Avolon's former head of strategy Dick Forsberg as he delivered his keynote speech at an ISTAT event in Berlin today.

"There is no doubt that the cosy relationship between the OEMs and regulators allows shortcuts, self-certification, the extension of grandfathered rights over design changes," says Forsberg. "It would be critically important that the reignition of the [Boeing 737] Max to airline operations is achieved in a co-ordinated manner across all the regulators across the world."

He adds that it will be challenging for the industry if the US Federal Aviation Administration moves before other jurisdiction on recertification, citing logistical complications that would arise if the Max were re-approved to fly in the USA and Boeing started delivering the jets to airlines in jurisdictions where they had not yet regained approval.

Forsberg believes that it is going to take a long time for Boeing to resolve its Max issues, especially when it comes to customer confidence.

"The regulators need to establish professional distance from the OEMs and avoid temptation to take shortcuts in the approval process."

He predicts that new aircraft development for all OEMs will have longer lead-times to service entry, which could result in fewer aircraft types brought to market.

"When the dust settles, we will see a complete re-evaluation of the product development process across the OEMs and their supply-chain partners," says Forsberg. "If it's launched, Boeing's NMA will be at the forefront of this process, while the next generation of single-aisle aircraft will almost definitely be developed from scratch, rather than by further evolution of existing models."

While Forsberg believes certification and product development need processes need to be overhauled, he says the Max issues may be "a blessing in disguise", on the basis that airlines will have the opportunity to reassess their business needs in the near term.

"Not all the capacity taken out of the market will be replaced as customers re-profile or cancel their orders. It gives airlines who have stretched finances or ambitious backlogs an opportunity to re-evaluate and reshape their capacity growth plans and reduce their cash output and preserve a larger war chest as they head into more challenging times."

That said, as airlines take the Max jets that have been building up in storage, Forsberg warns that the industry could experience a short "bubble of capacity" which will lead to "more pressure on yields" as operators work to dispose of the aircraft they took on as contingency equipment.

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