ContractsProf Blog

Editor: Jeremy Telman
Oklahoma City University
School of Law

Friday, April 5, 2024

Friday Frivolity: John Oliver on FAA Oversight

John Oliver devoted a lengthy segment to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) oversight of aircraft in the aftermath of a door falling off an Alaska Air plane.  The contracts angle on all this has to do with the Boeing/McDonnell Douglas merger and the FAA's relation to Boeing, which seems to involve a lot of delegation to Boeing of FAA oversight over Boeing.

John has a lot of say about Boeing's merger with McDonnell Douglas.  The argument is that Boeing built its reputation on the reliability of its planes.  Its culture was that the engineers, not the corporate executives, drove the company.  That all changed after the merger, as stock price, rather than rigorous focus on engineering challenges, came to dominate the company.  That corporate culture produced the 787 Dreamliner, which was quickly grounded, and the 737 Max, two of which crashed.  Those crashes were apparently due to problems with the aircraft's navigation (MCAS) system and inadequate pilot training, which involved no acknowledgment of the existence of the MCAS system.  The 737 Max was also grounded for two years.

So where does federal regulation fit in here?  Well, it turns out FAA inspectors were incapable of understanding what it was they were regulating.  Boeing engineers described the responses of FAA regulators to their presentations as like dogs watching television.  As a result, for five decades, the FAA has delegated its oversight to Boeing employees, and in 2005, Boeing successfully lobbied for less vigorous regulation of its aircraft.  Now, the Boeing employees who are seconded to the FAA increasingly complain that they are under pressure from the company to say that all is fine.

For those who want to learn more, and perhaps enjoy a few uncomfortable, gallows-humor type chuckles, and now, this . . .

Current Affairs, In the News, Television, Travel | Permalink