Airbus showed caution Tuesday addressing questions from the press on the relationship between manufacturers and regulators in the wake of the 737 MAX grounding and allegations of a too cozy relationship between Boeing and the FAA.
Airbus Chief Commercial Officer Christian Scherer said during a press event in Toulouse, “I don’t think there’s anything fundamentally wrong in the relationship [between Boeing and the FAA] that I can judge … no reason to question the integrity of that relationship.“
Scherer also disagreed with assertions that the 737 MAX design had been pushed to its limits: “The MAX is not one stretch too many, in my humble opinion.”
Airbus, like Boeing, is in a position to advise regulators on the technical capabilities of its products when submitting new products or changes for approval and certification. And the practice of acceptance and approvals via FAA designee applies to all other aviation industry manufacturers. Any changes in these practices would be disruptive to the aviation industry, far beyond Boeing.
However, Scherer seemed to credit Europe’s aviation safety regulator, EASA, with having an advantage, saying: “EASA has a slightly different mandate than the FAA. EASA is a purely safety orientated agency.”
EASA is responsible to the European Commission and not a single government. It also has a mandate limited to aviation safety oversight, while the various countries in the EU are responsible independently for some of the FAA’s other mandates including management of Air Traffic Control and airport infrastructure.
Scherer credited Boeing’s safety culture saying, “Safety is the first and the last word and concept and obsession that aircraft manufacturers go through in every decision that they make. Whenever there is an accident out there, the first question that gets asked in an Airbus management meeting is: can we learn from it?”
Philippe Mhun, Airbus’ Executive Vice-President Programmes & Services, said that safety is part of the company’s DNA as well its suppliers and the broader aviation industry.
“We comply with regulations both in terms of certification and in terms of operation for the airlines,” he said. “We have a product safety process internally. We are learning a lot also from the data that we collect from operations. We can anticipate early signals of any degradation of performance, which is the job of everybody in the company, especially in the support and engineering side. We are not just reactive, we are pro-active in terms of safety. We go further than purely regulation, just to create the barriers in terms of safety that will enhance the safety behaviour of our products.”
Rémi Maillard, Head of Services by Airbus, added: “We work hand in hand with the regulators, and with the OEMs to adopt the safety standards. But, to be clear, our internal safety standards are even more stringent than what is required by the regulators.”