Review of FAA's Oversight of Airlines and Use of Regulatory Partnership Programs
On June 30, 2008, we issued our review of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) oversight of airlines and use of regulatory partnership programs. We initiated this review at the request of the Chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. The objectives of our initial review were to determine (1) the thoroughness of FAA’s investigation of whistleblower complaints regarding FAA’s oversight of Southwest Airlines (SWA) and (2) the type and timeliness of corrective actions FAA took in response to any inappropriate inspector actions. At the request of Congress, we continue to review FAA’s air carrier oversight processes to determine if there are areas in which FAA could strengthen its oversight. We testified multiple times before the House and Senate regarding the SWA matter in April. During these hearings, we made a series of recommendations to improve FAA’s air carrier oversight practices. We are still reviewing these issues and plan to issue our final report later this year. This interim report formally transmits to FAA the recommendations we have identified to date. While FAA generally agreed with most of our recommendations, it disagreed with two that are fundamental in improving its air carrier oversight: (1) periodically rotate supervisory inspectors to ensure reliable and objective air carrier oversight and (2) establish an independent organization to investigate safety issues identified by FAA employees. Given the seriousness of the issues these recommendations were intended to address, we believe FAA needs to reconsider its position.