FAA plans new safety division as post-Boeing Max scrutiny ramps up

Key Points
  • Lawmakers have ramped up scrutiny of the FAA after two fatal crashes of the Boeing 737 Max.
  • The agency has been criticized for having a relationship that was too cozy with Boeing.
  • The FAA denies that the new division is directly related to the crashes.
Here's what to expect from the House hearing on FAA's oversight of Boeing
Here's what to expect from the House hearing on FAA's oversight of Boeing

WASHINGTON — The Federal Aviation Administration is planning a new division that aims to improve aircraft certification, a development that comes as the agency is under increasing scrutiny for approving the Boeing 737 Max before two of the fast-selling planes crashed.

The agency denied that the new division was directly related to the 737 Max, which have been grounded since mid-March after two crashes in five months killed 346 people. The FAA grounded the planes after the second crash.

The new division, first reported by The Washington Post, was part of a reorganization that started two years ago, FAA spokeswoman Brianna Manzelli said in an email.

"The FAA is constantly evolving and changing to continue addressing the safety needs of the flying public," she said. "The primary role of this branch is to better coordinate the FAA's aircraft certification efforts."

New FAA Administrator Steve Dickson testifies Wednesday before a House Transportation Committee panel about the agency's certification process, part of a series of congressional hearings about the 737 Max. He said last month the agency is reevaluating how it certifies aircraft, including how human pilots interact with ever more complex automated systems.

Lawmakers have criticized the agency for having a cozy a relationship with Boeing and handing over too much of the certification tasks to the manufacturer. The agency has since taken a harder line against the company and recently said it would approve each new Max plane, individually.

Boeing has repeatedly said it expects to win FAA approval to lift the flight ban on the planes, but the FAA has said it has no firm timeline to do so.