Thu, Jul 03, 2008
Faults Agency For Bungling Of Airline Maintenance Issues
A new report from the Inspector General of the US Department of
Transportation says that even after this spring's embarrassing
public spectacle over the FAA's handling of airline maintenance and
safety issues, the agency isn't ensuring full investigations when
its safety inspectors find problems.
The Dallas Morning News reports the IG's report recommends the
FAA establish an internal, independent watchdog agency to address
concerns raised by its inspectors.
The IG called the current hierarchy, in which inspectors bring
problems directly to top agency officials, "...unequivocally
ineffective and possibly even biased against resolving root causes
of serious safety lapses."
The review by the IG came after congressional investigators
followed up on tips from whistle-blowers in the Dallas area, and
found potentially serious safety lapses in the maintenance program
of Southwest Airlines. Those same tipsters said they were
stonewalled from further investigation by Dallas-area FAA managers,
who had become too cozy with the carrier.
When the story finally broke containment, the FAA pounced on
levying a record $10.2 million fine in March
for violations that included flying jets overdue for inspections of
their fuselages for fatigue cracking. Five jets were later found to
actually have cracks. Internally, the FAA reassigned or suspended
several officials who'd failed to enforce the regulations.
Since the Southwest scandal, the FAA has adopted a policy that
prohibits FAA inspectors from going to work for airlines they
previously regulated. The Inspector General wanted inspectors
rotated on a regular basis to prevent them from getting too tight
with airline management, but the FAA has balked at that idea.
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