After Boeing crashes, jet design rules set to get tougher for all

Mourners during a funeral mass for the victims of the Ethiopian Airlines crash at Holy Trinity Cathedral in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in March. The crash of Flight ET 302 minutes into its flight to Nairobi on March 10 killed 157 people. [AFP]
Planemakers worldwide face tougher scrutiny and changes in the way aircraft are certified in the aftermath of two fatal crashes of Boeing 737 MAX jets, leading regulators have told Reuters.

Yesterday marked one year since the deadly crash of a Lion Air jet, which Indonesian investigators linked in part to violent seesaw movements triggered by flawed anti-stall software.

The MCAS software, activated by a single faulty sensor and omitted from training manuals, has led to calls for tighter regulation as well as improvements in the training of pilots.

"The certification process will change; I think so," the head of the US Federal Aviation Administration, Steve Dickson, told Reuters late on Monday at an airlines meeting in Brazil.

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Boeing 737 MAX aircraft have been grounded around the world since March following a second fatal crash, this time involving a plane operated by Ethiopian Airlines.

Speaking to airlines earlier, Mr Dickson also emphasised a need to raise standards for airplane pilot training globally.

A recent report by international regulators, commissioned by the FAA, faulted processes at both the US regulator and Boeing.

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But the impact of the crisis is likely to be felt worldwide, including at Boeing's rival Airbus and new entrants from Russia to China and Japan, as regulators step up efforts to ensure that risks are correctly identified right from the drawing board.

"We are going to make it harder," Patrick Ky, executive director of the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), told Reuters when asked about the future of certification in general, without naming countries or companies.

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"In the future we may ask to have a larger set of data which will be used in the certification case than today," he added.

In part, that will involve using new technology to run simulations to spot flaws that may be missed in flight testing.

But regulators are also expected to take a close look at one of the key tenets of aviation safety, an obscure piece of regulation known as the "Changed Product Rule".

Under this rule, manufacturers revamping an old design like the 737 only need to comply with latest regulations on systems undergoing major changes, which means risks must be understood.

For the rest of the aircraft, the original standards still apply, which in the case of the 737 date back to the 1960s.

SEE ALSO :Boeing wants it to fly, but travelers fear the 737 MAX

That is no problem when risks are small, officials say.

But this month's international regulatory panel report said the rule did not adequately address the cumulative effects of individual changes on small systems.

Boeing's chief executive was due to tell a US Senate committee yesterday that it made mistakes over the MAX.

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