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It did not fail to escape the attention of commentators that the US Federal Aviation Authority was amongst the last aviation regulators to issue an order grounding the 737 MAX.

Is there evidence to show that this is a pattern - that US, European, Russian (or other) regulators tend to be slower to issue orders or directives that concern aircraft made by manufacturers within their own country or bloc?

What would count as an answer

"Evidence" in this case would be based on figures showing time to respond by different agencies in multiple cases (enough to indicate a pattern).

What does not count as an answer

I am not asking for opinions on whether the FAA or EASA or other agencies are politically sensitive (I am sure they are).

Though I am willing to bet that it will turn out to be the case that agencies tend to be slower to act when it would affect interests that are closer to home, I don't need to read speculation about why; I don't think it will be any more illuminating than the interminable exchanges about how Airbuses are better than Boeings or vice-versa.

Similarly, although questions have been raised and concerns expressed about the FAA's inspection regime and the degree to which it allowed Boeing to self-certify aircraft, that (and the regimes and processes of other regulators) is not the question here.


I should have guessed that this would quickly descend into ra-ra declarations about superior American pilots and ways, backward and corrupt non-western political systems, and so on. I wouldn't want to deny anyone their fun, but it's exactly what is not an answer to the question.

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    $\begingroup$ American commercial aviation didn't become the safest activity known to mankind by reacting in knee-jerk fashion to incomplete accident investigations and hysteria. Grounding the Max was 100% political, no more, no less. There's a reason that China led the way on that... think geopolitics. IMHO, what should have been grounded are airlines that allow 300-hour FO's and which never allow their pilots to gain enough experience hand-flying the aircraft that the "Maintain Aircraft Control" step of the QRH is beyond their ability when things go off the usual script. $\endgroup$ – Ralph J May 16 at 23:49
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    $\begingroup$ @RalphJ Two crashes of brand new aircraft within a couple of months is not very safe. $\endgroup$ – Koyovis May 17 at 0:47
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    $\begingroup$ @RalphJ -- I think the problem lurks deeper (i.e. "who forgot to flight test the runaway stabilizer checklist to make sure it'd actually work when the 300-hr FO tried to action it, instead of turning said 300-hr FO into a 300-hr test pilot because nobody's tried to use the checklist in the airplane before?") $\endgroup$ – UnrecognizedFallingObject May 17 at 1:22
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    $\begingroup$ This whole thing was a major breakdown of the internal system safety analysis, that validated an architecture with a single-point-of-failure, when the required redundancy could have been implemented by mostly software, motivated by the need to avoid any kind of additional training requirement to keep a common type rating, so they couldn't even brief pilots on the system and the potential failure modes. Nobody in any flight deck knew the system was even present on the aircraft. Plus the FAA signing off on same. Although your point is valid @RalphJ, this is mostly a failure by Boeing. $\endgroup$ – John K May 17 at 2:46
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    $\begingroup$ @Koyovis American commercial aviation. Not Indonesian, not Ethiopian. Part of that difference is pilots with the experience to maintain aircraft control (as in, not exceeding VNE in level flight with takeoff power set) even without the autopilot & with distractions. $\endgroup$ – Ralph J May 17 at 3:20
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I was many years in the industry with an OEM and have had various minor peripheral roles in certification and continuing airworthiness projects at the system level, giving me a kind of ring side seat. And I would say that you tend to get more hair-trigger reactions from non-western regulators (China/Russia et.al), and that this is because there is a way lower level of trust between the regulator and OEM than with Western regulators.

Now, although it all went to hell in this case with respect to Boeing/FAA, there has to be some level of trust or else the regulator would have to constantly audit the manufacturer every time they scratched their butts. It doesn't mean that the FAA just lets Boeing do whatever it feels like, but it does mean that they will tend to accept reports and analysis submitted without too much cross examination if things seem reasonable, and that's how situations like this can slip through.

Unfortunately the trust relationship broke down in the MAX case because Boeing perhaps could be said to have abused its trust relationship with the FAA. Having been burned, you can be sure the FAA will tighten up its oversight of Boeing quite a bit, for a while anyway.

In non western countries the trust relationship is not very robust, so regulators will pull the trigger quite quickly. This can cause its own problems. You also have the tendency of non-western regulators to have much more severe punishment regimes, to the point of jail time for mistakes made in good faith. This encourages people to hide their mistakes (a major problem in both China and Russia in manufacturing, maintenance and flight operations). So in the long run, in spite of the MAX fiasco, the low trust regime is much worse.

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    $\begingroup$ Entertaining ("you tend to get more hair-trigger reactions from non-western regulators" etc) but categorically not an answer to the question. The question is about evidence of slower response times. $\endgroup$ – Daniele Procida May 17 at 7:45
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    $\begingroup$ @DanieleProcida You are never going to find that answer, unless by some amazing miracle someone here has actually done detailed studies of different regulators and measured input-to-output periods and compared them, like comparing ambulance operators. Ain't gonna happen, so forget it. $\endgroup$ – John K May 17 at 13:18
  • $\begingroup$ I hesitate to call it miraculous, but Wikipedia gives a timeline for 737 groundings by different operators, showing who acted sooner and who acted later. You don't need "input-to-output periods" to see that in this case, the FAA was slower to act than other regulators. $\endgroup$ – Daniele Procida May 17 at 14:25
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    $\begingroup$ Your question is about the response times for regulators dealing with OEMs in their own countries. How fast does Russia respond to a Russian OEM; how fast does Transport Canada respond to and Canadian OEM, that sort of thing. This situation of regulators outside moving before the FAA is different and is more of an outlier. In general, regulators follow the lead of the host country's regulator absent special circumstances. And this one is very special. As I said, the FAA put too much trust in Boeing and Boeing abused it. But in the longer term scheme of things it's a relative outlier. $\endgroup$ – John K May 17 at 14:38

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