Joe Cahill On Business

Boeing needs a new flight plan to get back in FAA's favor

No relationship matters more to Boeing right now than the one with U.S. aviation regulators who will decide when the Chicago-based company’s best-selling plane will fly again.

Bloomberg

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Here’s a New Year’s resolution for Boeing directors: Make improving relations with the Federal Aviation Administration a top priority in 2020.

79彩票注册网址No relationship matters more to Boeing right now than the one with U.S. aviation regulators who will decide when the company’s best-selling plane will fly again. Until they lift the grounding order they imposed in March after the second of two 737 Max crashes that killed 346 people, Boeing can’t start making amends with airline customers, aviation regulators overseas or the traveling public.

And the relationship needs work. Tensions with the FAA burst into public view last week after FAA chief Steve Dickson called Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg and commercial airplane division boss Stan Deal on the carpet over issues that have arisen during the recertification process. Dickson  for unsatisfactory responses to agency information requests, and for publicizing unrealistic timetables for the plane’s return to service.

79彩票注册网址“The administrator is concerned that Boeing continues to pursue a return-to-service schedule that is not realistic due to delays that have accumulated for a variety of reasons,” the agency said. “More concerning, the administrator wants to directly address the perception that some of Boeing’s public statements have been designed to force FAA into taking quicker action.”

It wasn’t the first time the FAA had chided Boeing in recent months for what the agency considers inadequate cooperation. Officials over Boeing’s failure to provide the regulator with internal company emails between employees expressing doubts about 737 Max flight controls before its initial certification. New flight control software unfamiliar to pilots triggered events leading to the crashes.

79彩票注册网址Boeing last week issued a statement promising to answer all of the agency’s questions, and to “support their requirements and their timeline as we work to safely return the Max to service in 2020.”

The regulatory blowback vaporized Boeing’s hopes for approval of the new software before year-end. With recertification unlikely to come before February, executives this week , a move that sent Boeing stock down 4 percent on Monday. The shares closed down less than 1 percent at $326.90 Tuesday.

79彩票注册网址Timetables may be the least of the FAA's concerns. Agency officials are feeling considerable heat over the FAA’s role in the original approval of the 737 Max and its initial response to the crisis. No grounding order was issued after the first crash, even after FAA staffers concluded the plane was at greater risk of another. Also unflattering to the agency were disclosures of a cozy relationship with Boeing. Over the years, the FAA has shifted to Boeing more and more authority to conduct regulatory reviews of its own planes. This abdication brought safety reviews within the purview of company executives eager to roll out new designs, such as the 737 Max.

79彩票注册网址Boeing should understand that the agency cares more about repairing its reputation than getting the 737 Max back in the air soon. And the easiest way for the FAA to recover lost credibility is to get tough with Boeing. Officials are desperate to convince skeptical lawmakers and the general public that they’re putting the manufacturer through a rigorous and unforgiving review before clearing the plane to fly.

79彩票注册网址Boeing needs to adjust its expectations and regulatory tactics accordingly. To get the grounding order lifted, Boeing has to help the FAA regain public confidence. So forget about timetables. Stop resisting measures such as pilot simulator training on the new flight control system and better factory safety protocols. Show public deference to regulators, respond quickly and fully to all FAA requests, and make any changes the agency deems necessary to ensure safety.

79彩票注册网址Critical as recertifying the 737 Max may be to Boeing’s short-term financial interests, even more is at stake for the company. The two tragedies and ensuing fallout likely will change the ground rules of Boeing’s future dealings with regulators. Boeing can’t expect to influence safety reviews as heavily as it has in the past. It’s time to set a foundation for a mutually beneficial new relationship reflecting this shift. The remaining months of the 737 Max recertification process are Boeing’s opportunity to put those building blocks in place.

Company executives who don’t understand the need for a new approach are obstacles to essential change at Boeing. Directors should be prepared to remove any such impediment.

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