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As a former chairman of the safety board, I know firsthand that effective government oversight helps prevent fatal airplane accidents. For decades, the F.A.A. has used what it calls “designated airworthiness representatives” to certify that aircraft meet government safety standards. They were experts selected and supervised by the agency, even if they worked for the manufacturer.
But in 2005, the F.A.A. changed the process of selecting those designees, ruling that aircraft manufacturers who qualified under the new procedures could choose their own employees to certify their planes. The distinction is important, because it suggests a slide toward industry self-certification.
… It is no coincidence that the committee that helped develop this process was made up of industry members. Essentially, aircraft makers persuaded the F.A.A. to let them certify their own aircraft so they could save money.