The Boeing B-737 MAX accidents represent a major failure of the aviation regulatory system. Current airworthiness standards are antiquated in their essence (mainly prescriptive) and inadequate for integrating new technologies. There have been calls to reform the system to allow more innovation and less bureaucracy and studies warning about the deficient approach for certifying new computer-based systems. Compliance enforcement by the national regulatory bodies has become also progressively less effective because of the ever-widening skill gap between regulators and industry. The regulatory bodies should move from rules- based certification to risk-based certification. They should emphasize qualitative performance requirements (minimum failure/fault tolerance depending on consequence severity) and use of hazard analyses during design. Deemphasize quantitative performance requirements as “true” measure of safety but use them as design goal to support qualitative performance requirements. Finally, independent supporting organizations should be established by regulatory bodies to get access to current technical and scientific skilled resources at level equal (or better) of industry to perform peer system safety reviews.

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About the author

Tommaso Sgobba

Mr. Sgobba recently retired as Head of the Independent Flight Safety and Planetary Protection Office for the European Space Agency. In this role, he was responsible for flight safety of European Space Agency manned systems, for spacecraft reentry safety, and for space debris, use of nuclear power sources, and planetary protection. Mr. Sgobba joined the European Space Agency in 1989, after 13 years in the aeronautical industry. He supported the development of the Ariane 5 launcher, Earth observation and meteorological satellites, and the early Hermes spaceplane phase. Later, he became product assurance and safety manager for all European manned missions on Shuttle, MIR station, and for the European research facilities for the International Space Station. Mr. Sgobba holds an M.S. in Aeronautical Engineering from the Polytechnic of Turin (I), where he has been also professor of space system safety (1999-2001). Mr. Sgobba is co-editor of the first book on safety design of space systems, and Executive Director of the International Association for the Advancement of Space Safety (IAASS).