Airbus withdraws from US panel looking at Boeing safety culture

Mr James Tidball, head of certification for Airbus Americas has withdrawn from a panel looking into safety at rival maker Boeing. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON - European planemaker Airbus said it had withdrawn from a US government-named panel reviewing Boeing’s safety processes and how they influence Boeing safety culture after two fatal 737 Max crashes in recent years killed 346 people.

The Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) panel named last week includes MIT lecturer and aerospace engineer Javier de Luis whose sister was killed in a Max crash, as well as experts from Nasa, the FAA, labour unions, Southwest Airlines, American Airlines, United Airlines, GE Aviation and FedEx Express.

Among those named was James Tidball, head of certification for Airbus Americas.

Airbus said in a statement to Reuters it appreciated the FAA’s recognition of Tidball’s impartiality concerning safety but given “the panel’s focus on a particular (Original Equipment Manufacturer, Tidball)... has decided to recuse himself from this working group.”

The panel, which Congress required under a 2020 law to reform how the FAA certifies new aeroplanes, has nine months to complete its review and issue findings and recommendations.

Congress directed the agency to appoint a panel by early 2021, but the FAA missed that deadline.

A 2020 US House report said the Max crashes in 2018 and 2019 “were the horrific culmination of a series of faulty technical assumptions by Boeing’s engineers, a lack of transparency on the part of Boeing’s management, and grossly insufficient oversight by the FAA.”

Boeing last week declined to comment on the panel, but previously emphasised it has significantly reformed its safety culture after the Max crashes cost it more than US$20 billion.

Last month, Congress voted to lift a Dec 27 deadline imposing a new safety standard for modern cockpit alerts for two new versions of the 737 Max aircraft that could have put the future of those new models at risk.

In May, the FAA opted to renew Boeing’s Organisation Designation Authorization (ODA) programme for three years rather than the five years Boeing sought.

The FAA continues to subject Boeing to enhanced oversight, inspecting all new Boeing 737 Max planes and 787s before they can be delivered. REUTERS

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