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Government Watchdog Knocks FAA on Safety

On June 20, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) released a report criticizing the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for the way the agency determines the number of flight standards safety inspectors needed to maintain a robust air carrier network.

The OIG found that while the FAA introduced a new inspector staffing model more than three years ago the agency has failed to rely fully on the model’s results to determine the needed number and location of part 121 air carrier inspectors and continues to utilize incomplete and outdated metrics. Different staffing processes across regions result in inconsistent and subjective staffing decisions that leave potential gaps in safety, according to the report.

The watchdog also outlined deficiencies in the FAA’s geographic surveillance program, which supplements regular inspections by allowing inspectors to request assistance from other regional offices. The OIG highlighted that many inspectors are reluctant to participate in certain aspects of the program since they are not always trained in the specific operations of the assigned air carrier and the process for requesting outside assistance is burdensome.

To address these concerns, the OIG recommended developing a plan with milestones to correct the staffing model’s shortcomings, particularly with regard to data collection and accuracy; implementing training programs to ensure managers and inspectors follow the model; establishing guidance to enhance staffing model analysts’ understanding of their role and responsibilities; and developing a process to ensure inspectors participating in the geographic surveillance program are trained on specific air carrier policies and procedures.

 



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