Tuesday marked the one-year anniversary of the fatal accident of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302. It’s a time of reflection at the Federal Aviation Administration as we continue to prioritize the safety of the traveling public in our review of the proposed changes to the Boeing 737 MAX.
Over the past year, I have had the privilege of visiting with the families of those who lost their lives on this flight, offering heartfelt condolences on behalf of my colleagues at the FAA. Meeting with them is a solemn reminder of the immense responsibility all aviation professionals worldwide share in ensuring and advancing safety.
Everyone at the FAA is committed to honoring the memory of those who lost their lives by working tirelessly with our partner safety agencies abroad to ensure the highest possible margin of safety in the global aviation system.
To that end, the FAA will address all recommendations from the various expert and independent inquiries into how this aircraft was certified, along with the lessons learned from the investigations into the chain of events that led to the loss of 346 lives aboard Lion Air Flight 610 in 2018 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302.
We are fortunate to live in a time of historic, unprecedented safety for air travel in the United States. However, we must never rest in our efforts to raise the bar on aviation safety at home and around the globe.
Much of the focus in the year since the accidents has centered on the 737 MAX and Boeing’s efforts to resolve issues from the ongoing reviews of the aircraft.
Boeing agreed at the beginning of the process to take the most conservative approach when it comes to safety.
The painstaking work has been thorough, and it has resulted in delays that were not anticipated when the work began. Nevertheless, the FAA, Boeing and the other regulatory authorities are in complete agreement that the aircraft must meet the highest standards.
As I have said repeatedly, I will not approve the aircraft for return to service until our dedicated technical experts are satisfied that the airplane is ready. Even then, I intend to fly the airplane myself, and the 737 MAX will not carry airline passengers until I am prepared to put my own family on one.
Some of the issues at the core of the 737 MAX investigations have made it clear that the entire industry must take a broader look at all aspects of civil aviation if we are to achieve one standard level of safety worldwide.
The world’s aviation community must deepen its focus on human interaction with aviation — ranging from the people who design airplanes to those who maintain, inspect and fly them — and how it affects safety as a whole. This has been a strong area of focus by multiple leading experts convened to examine aircraft certification during the year since the accident.
Regulators worldwide must work closely together to understand different viewpoints and reexamine long-held assumptions.
It isn’t an easy task, and will require cooperation and transparency across industry and government. However, it is promising that over the past several months the world’s aviation regulators have worked together to a degree we have never seen before.
Safety is a journey, not a destination. We must never become sidetracked from our pursuit of advancements on behalf of the traveling public.