Some have laid the blame for the Boeing 737 Max disasters on the FAA.

Newscasters and pundits ask why the Boeing company was given the task of certifying their own products. This is not a failure of government administrators but rather of anti-government, anti-regulations legislators. Their rationale for reducing government responsibility for inspections and certifications has been that it would be in the financial interests of companies to provide safe products, whether aircraft, automobiles, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, or food. Therefore, they can be trusted with the welfare of the public and government “intrusion” can be reduced.

Many years ago, I was a research technician, working at the FAA center in Oklahoma City, doing human factors research. The scientists, engineers, pilots, medical, physiological and psychological experts with whom I worked were a dedicated bunch of men and women for whom the safety of the public was and still is paramount. Now a part of the Department of Transportation, the agency has a century of work in improving the safety of aviation. For example, it was not industry that initiated research into why some people survived air crashes and others did not. The common wisdom was it was a matter of “luck,” without engineering solutions.

It was not industry that addressed everything from “blue ice,” sonic boom and airport nose levels, it was the FAA. In the 1950s a small team from the FAA began going to crash sites, recovering all the debris and then rebuilding the aircraft to see what worked and what did not. By the early ‘60s the Civil Aeromedical Research Institute was created. I had the privilege of knowing the original leader of that pioneering team.

Those legislators who promoted the very concept of trusting industry with our lives were wrong.


J. P. Bailey


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