FAA stands by delegation process for certification

Washington DC
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The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is "unwavered" in its commitment to delegating work to other parties such as manufacturers, despite public concerns raised about the integrity of the process, says John Hickey, the FAA's deputy associate administrator for aviation safety during the Aeronautical Repair Station Association's annual symposium on 21 March.

The public most recently raised concerns over the FAA's organisation designation authorisation, or ODA, in light of problems with the Boeing 787 lithium-ion battery, when Boeing was delegated some responsibilities for performing tests to show compliance with aviation regulations.

"I think when the people who are being critical of delegation understand the very nature of what's going on, you will see that delegation will continue to move forward," says Hickey, in response to a question about how the FAA views recurring questions about whether the delegation process causes a conflict of interest in a variety of instances.

Hickey notes that the debate is playing out in an environment where sequestration has caused an "untenable environment" causing the administration to scale down resources.

"Are there improvements that can be made to delegation? Of course, there's no system that can't take improvement," he says. Whether any changes to the process will be made remains to be seen.

Hickey says he sees the delegation process holding up in any future hearings focused on the Boeing 787 battery.

"I think what you'll find is that the delegation system worked fine, and I don't see it being compromised in the future at all," he says.

The world's Boeing 787 fleet was grounded on 16 January after two separate incidents of the battery overheating. The airframer received approval from the FAA for a plan to re-certify the battery earlier this month, permitting it to perform limited test flights on two aircraft.

Under its ODA status, Boeing was delegated the authority to develop, test and analyse procedures and test results to show compliance with airworthiness requirements for the 787's lithium-ion battery. The National Transportation Safety Board has said that the FAA established special conditions needed for Boeing to certify the battery.

Boeing was delegated the authority to develop, test and analyse the procedures and test results used to show compliance with the airworthiness requirements.