SEATTLE, WASHINGTONThe FAA says that Boeing appointed engineers to oversee airplane certification work on behalf of the agency who lack the required technical expertise and often do not meet FAA expectations.

An FAA letter of complaint to Boeing last week, the latest in a series this year from the local office that oversees the jet maker, states that many of the Boeing safety appointees the agency interviewed this summer did not measure up.

The need for those recent appointments arose because during the downturn from the pandemic Boeing offered early retirement to many more senior FAA-authorized safety engineers.

One FAA safety engineer, who cannot be identified because he spoke without FAA approval, said that in one certification specialty more than 20 such Boeing engineers left in a single month.

“I go to meetings now and don’t know the names,” he wrote in a text. “Brain drain!”

New rules are scheduled to take effect before year-end that will require every proposed appointee to be interviewed by the FAA and then either approved or rejected by the agency.

In a statement Wednesday, Boeing said it intends to strengthen the selection process for such appointees and its oversight of airplane certification work more broadly.

“We’re committed to ensuring the highest levels of safety and quality in all that we do, and that includes the important work of Boeing employees who are designated as authorized representatives,” Boeing said.

The FAA delegates to these authorized safety appointees much of the airplane certification work, making sure tests are completed and that all designs comply with regulations.

Investigations into the botched certification of the 737 MAX — which approved a fatally flawed flight control system with minimal oversight — severely criticized how this system worked, and Congress in December enacted FAA reform legislation requiring changes.

The FAA letter, dated Nov. 2, and addressed to Tom Galantowicz, Boeing vice president for product and services safety, lists a series of failures to meet FAA requirements among the engineers Boeing appointed to act on the agency’s behalf.

  • Some lacked “direct experience requiring expertise in the general certification process.”
  • Some were not “cognizant of related technical requirements and problems related to civil aircraft approval.”
  • Some did not know the “technical and procedural requirements involved in obtaining such approvals.”

Furthermore, the FAA complained of weaknesses in the Boeing panels that appointed these engineers. These panels “have not demonstrated an independent assessment of a candidate’s experience and technical capability.”

Instead, the letter states, in many cases the candidate’s direct manager and another person who had been mentoring the engineer were members of the panel.

The FAA said this made the appointment process appear to be just a formality by those assigned to train the person for the post, instead of being an independent validation that the candidate had made the grade.
Via Seattle Times