CNBC News Releases

CNBC Exclusive: CNBC Transcript: FAA Administrator Steve Dickson Speaks with CNBC's Phil LeBeau on CNBC's "Power Lunch"

WHEN: Monday, September 16, 2019

WHERE: CNBC's "Power Lunch"

The following is the unofficial transcript of a CNBC EXCLUSIVE interview with FAA Administrator Steve Dickson and CNBC's Phil LeBeau on CNBC's "Power Lunch" (M-F 2PM – 3PM) on Monday, September 16th. The following is a link to video of the interview on CNBC.com: https://www.cnbc.com/video/2019/09/16/faa-chief-no-specific-timeline-for-boeing-737-max-recertification.html.

All references must be sourced to CNBC.

TYLER MATHISEN: The Federal Aviation Administration has a new person at the helm and he is facing one of the biggest challenges in Washington. That would be getting Boeing's 737 Max Jet back into service and convincing travelers the airliner is safe. Our own Phil LeBeau has a "Power Lunch" exclusive. The very first TV interview with the new FAA administrator Steve Dickson. Phil, take it away.

PHIL LEBEAU: Thank you, Tyler. Steve, thank you for joining us today from the FAA headquarters. Let's get straight to this. You guys are in the process of re-certifying the 737 Max. Dennis Muilenburg, the CEO of Boeing says he believes that the plane will be re-certified and back in service by the end of this year. What's your take on the situation right now and is that an accurate estimate by Mr. Muilenburg?

STEVE DICKSON: Well, first of all, Phil, it's a pleasure to be with you today. And, as you know, the highest responsibility that I have as the FAA administrator is ensuring the safety of the traveling public in the U.S. and around the world. And that's going to be our absolutely first priority in terms of getting the Max flying again. It's really safety first and we're not on any specific timeline. We still have not seen the final system description and safety analysis from Boeing. We expect to get that in the coming days and then we'll see where we go from there.

PHIL LEBEAU: You know that a number of other countries and regions, whether its Europe, whether India, today the United Arab Emirates out with some comments about they will want do their own test, in terms of re-certifying or saying, 'Yes, we think the Max is safe to fly.' Do you think it's more like than not that the FAA is likely to certify the max to play in the United States but it may be well into next year where it's certified to fly in other parts of the world?

STEVE DICKSON: Well, it's a great question. I frankly think that this process really has been very transparent. We have involved an unprecedented number of international aviation and certification safety authorities in this effort. And we're working very hard to ensure that everyone is aligned. Ultimately, validating the work of other certification authorities is not anything unusual. We do it with respect to other certifications in other jurisdictions around the world. And I certainly would welcome that. Additionally, I would say we welcome the scrutiny, we welcome the diligence of this entire process because ultimately it will make us a more effective safety regulator and even raise the margin of safety in our system even higher than it is -- already at unprecedented levels.

PHIL LEBEAU: Steve, as you know, President Trump has been very vocal about the 737 Max. He has blasted Boeing. He said, 'Look, just rename the plane. Nobody is going to want the fly it when it's re-certified.' Do you talk often with the President about the Max and what's his take based on your conversations with him?

STEVE DICKSON: Well, I think that I'm qualified on the 737 as well as a number of other aircraft. I'm anxious to get out to Seattle later this week and look into this myself and see where we are with the certification process. And I can guarantee you that the airport will not be flying again until I'm satisfied that it is the safest thing out there.

TYLER MATHISON: Tyler Mathisen at headquarters.

PHIL LEBEAU: Tyler, go ahead. Do you have a question?

TYLER MATHISEN: Thank you, Phil. I do. Mr. Dickson, I know you're new to the job and so, maybe this is a little unfair. But I wonder if you have identified any flaws in the process of certifying that 737 Max either at the FAA's level or within Boeing's processes, that may have contributed to crashes that took place? Have you put your finger on anything that you think needs changing?

STEVE DICKSON: Well, first of all, Tyler, it's a great question. And with respect to the crashes first, first of all, my heart and my prayers go out to the families of the Lion Air and Ethiopian 302 crashes. These accidents should not have happened. And there does appear to be some common thread between them but it's very important we not pre-judge exactly what the root cause was. But I certainly think that this whole situation has provided an opportunity for us to look at our processes, look how the -- examine how the processes were executed and put in the appropriate changes that need to be put into place, make sure those are implemented. And I look forward to doing that in the coming months and years.

KELLY EVANS: I also -- it's Kelly here back at headquarters -- have a question as well. There's been criticism that the FAA and Boeing were too close. "The New York Times" said: agency managers made decisions about the certification based in part on Boeing's timing and budget needs. Was the relationship between the FAA and Boeing too close in the past, and will it change going forward?

STEVE DICKSON: Well, I can assure you my emphasis is going to be on making sure the safety bar is as high as it can be. And in terms of my experiences in the industry, I will apply the same things I have learned in terms of regulating safety with the manufacturers, as well. I think it's important that we are able to collaborate. And I don't think that delegation per se as a concept is a bad thing. I think it makes the agency a more effective regulator and it makes the manufacturer a more effective and safer manufacturer. But how it have implemented in this particular case and in general, those are the kinds of things we need to look at to make sure there aren't gaps in the processes and to make sure that it's absolutely as tight as it can be.

PHIL LEBEAU: Steve, this is Phil again. One last question. Whenever the Max is re-certified, you know and almost everybody expects, that there is going to be fairly large number of people who will say: I don't want to get on it. If I book a flight on a particular airline, I'm not flying the Max. Do you convince the flying public that the max is safe once you re-certify it?

STEVE DICKSON: Well, certainly, my job is, again, to make sure that we follow every step of the process and that the airplane is safe for us to fly. Not only in the U.S. with U.S. pilots but around the world. And as a pilot myself, I can tell you that I will not allow this airplane to fly unless I would fly it myself and put my own family on it. And that's my commitment.

PHIL LEBEAU: And Steve, just to be clear, you're going to be out in Seattle later this week. Will you get in the simulator with the software and test it out yourself?

STEVE DICKSON: Yes, I will.

PHIL LEBEAU: I'll be interested to see what you have to say about it. I'm not sure you'll give us an update right way. But I think that has to be a first. I'm not sure how often an FAA administrator has gone into a simulator to test out changes with some of the software with the commercial airplanes. Steven Dickson, the administrator for the Federal Aviation Administration joining us exclusively here on "Power Lunch." Tyler, Kelly, guys, back to you.

TYLER MATHISEN: You know, Phil, we see you're out in Michigan near one of the plants that are on strike against the GM, the UAW against the GM. So, what's the latest? What can you tell us about any talks taking place? And how far apart are the two parties?

PHIL LEBEAU: Well, with all negotiations, Tyler, it's a little bit of taking what you hear from both sides and kind of distilling it down to saying, 'Okay, are they really that far apart?' There is a wide gap in terms of expectations when it comes to job guarantees, which the FAA wants and the number of temporary workers. Temporary workers have allowed General Motors to be much more flexible, much more efficient. And that's what you want from an auto manufacturer. You want that flexibility. On the flip side, the UAW is saying, 'Uh uh. We want those guarantees. We want more jobs here in the United States.' Yes, they are back at the bargaining table. But it may be that we go several days, if not a couple of weeks, before we see a deal.

TYLER MATHISEN: Alright. Phil LeBeau, thank you very much.

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