January 21, 2013
Credit: Photo Credit: John Croft/AW&ST
The FAA's “comprehensive review” of the design, production and quality assurance of the Boeing 787 departs, at least in name, from legacy processes that are in place for cases when a certified aircraft exhibits significant safety problems.
Under FAA type certification regulations (Transportation Department Order 8110.4C), a Special Certification Review (SCR) is the only remedy listed for “post-certification evaluations” of a design.
Though FAA officials contend that an SCR would not be broad enough to cover all of the 787 areas of concern, the rules reveal flexibility that allows the agency to delve into “complex, controversial or potentially unsafe” designs or components post-certification,
And while a thorough review is certainly the FAA's goal, avoiding the SCR stigma could be a plus for Boeing.
SCRs have been used sparingly in the FAA's 50-plus years as an agency, but are often perceived as a “black eye” to the aircraft and manufacturer involved. SCR rules direct officials to “thoroughly explore every significant aspect and ramification of the potential safety problem in question,” which would appear to include the production and quality assurance areas.
Earlier SCRs include an investigation of the McDonnell-Douglas DC-10 after a fatal engine-breakaway crash in Chicago in 1989, a review of the MD-11 after an inflight upset killed several passengers in 1993, and analysis of the ATR 72 certification after an icing-related crash in 1994.
Fatalities are not essential to trigger an SCR. The most recent notable SCR targeted the Eclipse 500 very light jet, an aircraft that pushed the boundaries for traditional Part 23 light aircraft certification standards in terms of the avionics and other innovative features.