Enhancements Are Needed to FAA’s Oversight of the Suspected Unapproved Parts Program
The public depends on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the aviation industry to provide safe, reliable air transportation and ensure that aircraft are properly maintained and approved for flight. According to FAA estimates, there are approximately 7,000 commercial aircraft in service in the United States. One type of aircraft—the Boeing 737, the most widely used aircraft in the world—contains approximately 400,000 parts. FAA and the aviation industry are responsible for ensuring that all these parts are safe for use in transporting passengers. Part of this responsibility includes detecting and monitoring for Suspected Unapproved Parts (SUP)—aircraft parts that may have been manufactured without FAA approval or intentionally misrepresented.
Our audit found that FAA’s process for monitoring and investigating SUPs is not as effective as it could be, because of recordkeeping weaknesses and the lack of a management control to capture and accurately report the number of SUPs. Also, Agency oversight of industry actions to remove unapproved parts is ineffective because it does not consistently implement its process for notifying the industry about unapproved parts. As a result, FAA cannot be assured that unapproved parts have been removed from the system and no longer pose a threat to safety. We recommended a number of actions to help FAA strengthen its SUPs program by implementing management controls that will ensure consistency of investigations and that local inspection offices properly submit SUPs reports to the FAA Hotline for processing. FAA concurred with all of our recommendations.