The grounding and recertification process of the Boeing 737 MAX accidents have identified several areas that must change to improve certification outcomes, FAA administrator Steve Dickson says.

“We've identified some key themes that are emerging regarding aircraft certification processes,” Dickson said during the Dubai Airshow Nov. 17.

Regulators agree that certification needs to shift from a “holistic versus transactional” approach, that human factors elements must be introduced earlier and more effectively throughout the design process, and that information flow must improve—between regulators as well as between applicants and their agencies.

"These are among the many issues that we have to address to prevent the next accident from happening, Dicksen said.

The themes have emerged from several reports completed as part of reviewing the MAX’s certification and Boeing’s efforts to correct design issues in the model’s flight control system (FCS). Dickson credited the Joint Authorities Technical Review (JATR) task force, in which experts from nine regulatory agencies joined counterparts from the FAA and NASA to review 737 FCS certification, for spotlighting key “gaps” in the FAA’s processes.

“I think it's important to understand that never before in aviation history have you had 10 aviation authorities come together to conduct a review of this sort,” he said. "I think there has been an unprecedented collaboration. As I've spoken to our regulatory peers around the world, they have seen opportunities to improve their own processes.”

The JATR’s recommendations touched on each of the themes Dickson highlighted, while a set of NTSB recommendations urged greater input from human factors experts during flight deck design.

Dickson, a former US Air Force pilot and Delta Air Lines line pilot and executive, believes that addressing human factors issues is overdue.

“In my personal opinion, that is something that needed to happen some time ago,” he said.

Dickson expects more lessons from a special Transportation Department committee set up to review FAA’s certification process that is expected to complete its report “in the next two to three weeks."

FAA and other regulators continue to review Boeing’s proposed changes to the MAX, including updating its maneuvering characteristics augmentation system (MCAS) flight-control law implicated as a key factor in the two fatal MAX accidents involving Indonesian LCC Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines. Everyone onboard each aircraft was killed.

Addressing reporters before the air show opened, newly appointed CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes Stan Deal said that while Boeing was still aiming to wrap up the approval process this year, FAA was setting the pace.

“We’re going to follow the FAA’s lead on this,” Deal told reporters in Dubai Nov. 16. “The process, the tools and certification; this has to be safe and done well, and as the FAA said they're not going to put a timeframe on it and we're going to draft behind them on this, and the regulators around the globe.”

Sean Broderick, sean.broderick@aviationweek.com; Stephen Trimble, stephen.trimble@aviationweek.com