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Aviation: manufacturer - regulator relationship in the spotlight

In the days since the crash of Ethiopian Airlines flight 302, attention has rightly focused on the aircraft involved, a Boeing 737-MAX8. The MAX8 has a system known as MCAS (Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System), which has been implicated in last year's loss of Lion Air flight JT610 in Indonesia and questions are being asked about whether it was a factor in the Ethiopian tragedy too. The Aviation Oracle's recent story - 737-MAX - a story as strange as fiction - looks at MCAS and explains why it was implemented in layman's terms.

However, after investigations into ET302 got underway concerns were raised about the relationship between Boeing and the Federal Aviation Authority, the US Government agency that signs-off the certification of all airliners built in the country. Indeed, these concerns have become so intense that the US Department of Transportation has requested an audit of the certification of the Boeing 737-MAX8. US transportation secretary Elaine Chao said in a memo to the DoT: "To help inform the Department's decision making and to help the FAA in ensuring its safety procedures are implemented effectively, this is to confirm my request that the Office of Inspector General proceed with an audit to compile an objective and detailed factual history of the activities that resulted in the certification of the Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft."

Meanwhile European and Canadian authorities have said they too will seek assurances over the safety of the 737-MAX.

Aviation authorities are questioning the basis on which the 737-MAX was certified. (Steve Lynes)

European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) executive Patrick Ky told an EU committee that "we will not allow the aircraft to fly if we have not found acceptable answers to all our questions." A Transport Canada spokesperson added that it would it would independently certify the 737-MAX in the future rather than accept validation by the US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA). It is highly unusual for either the European or Canadian authorities to take such action because they typically follow the FAA's lead when it comes to certifying aircraft designed in the USA. To avoid repetition, the agency overseeing aviation regulation the aircraft's country of origin will normally take the lead and other agencies accept the certification granted by their counterparts.

Two major issues