Continuing its certification reform efforts, the FAA is expanding its use of independent Technical Advisory Board (TAB) reviews for both aircraft and drone projects. The agency said the reviews are designed to provide a more consistent and thorough approach to certification projects and will involve independent groups of internal and external safety experts.
The FAA had formed a TAB during the Boeing 737 Max recertification and has established another for the Boeing 777X certification review. This is expanding to other certification projects involving a range of aircraft—small and large alike—as well as other systems such as drones, according to the agency.
Use of TABs is part of a multifaceted approach the FAA is taking to reform its certification policies as it works to comply with congressional mandates and address key concerns highlighted during the reviews following the Boeing Max crashes. However, the FAA maintained that its use of the TABs will go beyond congressional mandates, noting the boards will be involved early in the certification process with different levels of reviews depending on project scope and risk. In addition, independent technical specialists will be brought in to review the proposed design/design change and assess how it would meet certification requirements.
TAB members could be responsible for identifying new technologies, designs, or features that could be catastrophic if they failed. Reviews will include determining with the FAA that it has reviewed all major issues, whether similar systems have caused problems on other aircraft, determining the proper FAA offices have been involved in a project and conducting secondary design reviews or procedure changes.
Along with the creation of TABs, the FAA has begun delegating fewer responsibilities to manufacturers and demanding more transparency, it said. Further, the agency is hiring additional staff to research how reliance on automation affects basic pilot skills and examine manufacturer assumptions about human factors when making safety assessments.