The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) currently relies on more than 4,000 check pilots to help evaluate and ensure our nation’s commercial airline pilots have the knowledge, skills, and ability to fly large, passenger aircraft. In addition, FAA has authorized about 600 check pilots as aircrew program designees (APDs) to act on behalf of the Agency to certificate pilots and oversee check pilots. Given the importance of check pilots to FAA’s oversight of pilot safety, we initiated this audit to assess the effectiveness of FAA’s processes for (1) approving air carrier check pilots and APDs and (2) conducting check pilot and APD oversight.
We found that FAA’s processes are insufficient to ensure that required training and observations for check pilots and APDs are completed or documented prior to approval. For example, although FAA is required to verify that check pilot applicants have completed mandatory training and have been observed by an FAA inspector, FAA inspectors did not meet these requirements for 40 out of 258 check pilots we reviewed. In addition, after being authorized, check pilots must continue to meet recurring training and observation requirements. However, we found that nine check pilots at one carrier did not receive any recurring training in 2015, including four that had not received training since 2012 yet are still serving as check pilots. This occurred in part because neither FAA’s guidance nor its risk-based oversight tool specifies that inspectors verify recurrent training requirements. FAA’s guidance and training is also insufficient regarding oversight of check pilots at air carriers with Advanced Qualification Program (AQP) training programs. As a result, FAA is not ensuring that carriers are consistently meeting check pilot requirements.
FAA concurred with six of our seven recommendations to improve oversight of check pilots and APDs. We are requesting additional information for one recommendation.