Audit Reports

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Enhancements Are Needed to FAA’s Oversight of the Suspected Unapproved Parts Program

Requested by the Ranking Members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the Subcommittee on Aviation
Project ID: 
AV2017049

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.

Recommendations

Open

Closed

Closed on 01.19.2018
No. 1 to FAA

Develop guidance and provide training to Hotline employees on how to accurately record specific data about Suspected Unapproved Parts (SUP) in FAA's database.

No. 2 to FAA

Develop a management control to ensure that all SUPs reports received by local inspection offices are submitted to the Hotline for processing.

Closed on 01.19.2018
No. 3 to FAA

Develop a management control to ensure FAA Hotline employees conduct trend analyses in accordance with the Hotline's guidance.

No. 4 to FAA

Develop a management control to ensure inspectors adhere to guidance when conducting SUPs investigations.

Closed on 07.19.2017
No. 5 to FAA

Revise FAA's risk-based oversight system to incorporate a risk indicator for manufacturers where unapproved parts have been found.

Closed on 06.06.2017
No. 6 to FAA

Require FAA Headquarters officials to forward all confirmed SUPs cases to Federal law enforcement agencies, whether or not criminal activity is suspected, in accordance with the letter agreement.

Closed on 07.26.2018
No. 7 to FAA

Coordinate with DOT's Office of Inspector General to determine the need for its investigators to receive all improper maintenance cases, including those initially reported as SUPs as well as those reported directly to FAA.

Closed on 08.10.2017
No. 8 to FAA

Require FAA Headquarters officials to provide quarterly SUPs investigation reports to Federal law enforcement agencies, in accordance with the letter of agreement.

Closed on 04.17.2018
No. 9 to FAA

Develop a management control to ensure inspectors issue UPNs consistently when notifying the aviation industry about unapproved parts.

No. 10 to FAA

Develop a management control to ensure inspectors follow existing guidance requiring operators to remove unapproved parts from use and their inventories.

Closed on 02.14.2018
No. 11 to FAA

Include a "best practice" in the SUPs Advisory Circular to encourage industry to register to receive automated notifications about unapproved parts.