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It’s Time to Audit the FAA’s Quality Manual

The aviation industry lives and breathes by audits and a quality manual is the bible for a maintenance organization. Whether conducted internally, by outside certification organizations or the FAA, audits are a part of life. Even though many mechanics would hate to admit it, audits make the industry better and keep the public safer.

In 2006, the FAA realized it too needed to get its house in order and implemented an International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 9001:2000 compliant Quality Management System (QMS). The purpose of the QMS is to improve regulatory oversight (i.e., consistent implementation and application of regulations and guidance), improve responsiveness to stakeholders and support the interests of the flying public. Implementing a QMS helps the FAA achieve those objectives and enables it to identify its shortcomings.

Part of the ISO certification process requires the FAA to develop a quality manual, much like the one(s) used by the industries it regulates. The quality manual and its constituent parts identify processes and procedures, which if followed will lead to a measurable result. The FAA has developed a manual and supporting documents to assist the agency in conducting the public’s business in a fair and consistent manner.

The FAA has paraded the QMS system as the way it will interact with the public and hold itself accountable. Much as the FAA doesn’t take a repair station’s word that it follows its quality manual, the public should not be forced to take the agency at its word that it follows its manual. If the FAA plans to use the QMS to dictate how guidance will be developed, and how regulations are interpreted, implemented and applied, the FAA should be compelled to let the public – to whom it is accountable – audit the agency.

Unfortunately, the agency has been reluctant to release its quality manual or related documents. In addition, the FAA has not been forthcoming regarding the details of its QMS, the status of implementation and whether it is achieving its intended objectives. For that reason, ARSA filed a Freedom of Information Act request asking for such information.

Previously from ARSA...

Government Can’t Work in ISO-lation – ARSA Submits FOIA Request

January 26, 2015

ARSA works to ensure consistent application and enforcement by holding the FAA accountable to its policies and procedures. To do this, the association and its members need access to the most current documents, guidance and resources used by the government.

In 2006, FAA Aviation Safety (AVS) implemented an International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 9001:2000 compliant Quality Management System (QMS). The agency is certified under the updated 9001:2008 accreditation, but has failed to make its QMS documents available so the public can understand the way government is currently conducting business.

So what do all of these numbers and acronyms mean? The QMS helps an organization provide consistent and effective service to its customers. In the FAA’s case, the public (including certificate holders) is the customer and every regulation, guidance or enforcement action is the service. While the agency’s website has an older version of its QMS guidance, the latest is not available nor are the policies and procedures used to show compliance to the standard. So, on Thursday, Jan. 22 ARSA submitted a Freedom of Information Act Request (FOIA) seeking the records and manuals pertaining to the AVS QMS.

Once ARSA receives these materials, it will conduct a thorough review to ensure it understands how the AVS QMS is supposed to be working. Understanding how the government has promised to conduct its business will allow customers to provide meaningful feedback.

To see all of the ways ARSA works on behalf of the aviation maintenance industry, please visit the ARSA Works page.



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