Assessment of FAA's Risk-Based System for Overseeing Aircraft Manufacturers' Suppliers
On February 26, 2008, we issued our assessment of the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) oversight of aircraft manufacturers' quality assurance systems for domestic and foreign aircraft part suppliers. Because aircraft and engine manufacturers are increasingly taking an international partnership approach to business, aircraft parts and component suppliers now produce significant parts of U.S.- and foreign- manufactured aircraft. Although aviation manufacturers are ultimately responsible for the quality of their products, FAA's Aircraft Certification Service personnel oversee manufacturers' processes for ensuring that the products meet approved design specifications and are in a condition for safe operation.
We found that FAA's risk-based oversight system for suppliers needs improvement as it does not consider the degree to which manufacturers now use suppliers to make aviation products. Specifically, (1) FAA has not ensured that manufacturers are providing oversight of their suppliers, (2) FAA does not require inspectors to perform enough audits of suppliers to determine how well manufacturers' quality assurance systems are working, and (3) the systemic deficiencies we identified at 21 supplier facilities indicate that both manufacturers and FAA need to strengthen their oversight of these facilities.
Our recommendations to FAA focus on: requiring manufacturers to establish criteria for conducting on-site (initial and periodic) supplier audits, assessing risks at suppliers that produce flight-critical parts, ensuring objectivity and consistency in inspectors' risk assessments of manufacturers, correlating the number of inspector audits with the number of suppliers a manufacturer uses, and enhancing inspector training.