FAA’s Oversight of American Airlines' Maintenance Programs
On February 16, 2010, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) issued its report on the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) oversight of American Airlines’ maintenance programs. The audit was prompted by allegations that the overall aircraft operational reliability had decreased at this airline. The audit objectives were to assess (1) FAA’s oversight of American Airlines’ maintenance program and identify any underlying weaknesses and (2) FAA’s response to the allegations. OIG reported that FAA’s oversight lacked the rigor needed to identify the types of issues identified in the allegations, at least 4 of which were found to be valid. Specifically, FAA failed to assess systems for monitoring air carrier maintenance programs, identify root causes of maintenance deferrals, ensure properly trained mechanics performed certain required inspections, and ensure prompt responses to safety recommendations and service bulletins. In addition, FAA’s internal reviews of the allegations were not comprehensive. As a result, FAA missed opportunities to identify potential maintenance issues and put corrective actions in place. OIG recommended several actions to enhance FAA’s oversight in key maintenance areas at American—such actions could also improve FAA’s maintenance oversight at other air carriers as well as its processes for assessing industry-wide safety allegations. FAA generally concurred with the recommendations; however, many of the actions FAA has taken are still underway. Therefore, OIG has requested additional information to validate that the issues identified have been fully addressed.