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Capstone Memorandum: Observations and Common Themes in OIG’s Recent Work on FAA’s Oversight of Air Carrier Maintenance Programs

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What We Looked At
This capstone memorandum to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) provides a summary of findings and recommendations from three recent OIG reports regarding FAA’s oversight of Allegiant Air, American Airlines, and Southwest Airlines maintenance and operations practices. The Allegiant and American audits were requested by several members of Congress, and the Southwest audit was conducted as a result of a hotline complaint. The memorandum highlights common themes regarding FAA’s oversight and is intended to inform the Administrator of potential systemic issues. 

What We Found
While FAA has taken positive steps to work more closely with air carriers to improve safety, our work found that weaknesses in FAA’s oversight led to long-unresolved safety issues. In particular, FAA did not ensure Allegiant Air, American Airlines, and Southwest Airlines identified and resolved root causes of non-compliances. Further, our reviews indicate that FAA is not fully prepared to evaluate whether air carriers are effectively assessing and mitigating safety risks, due in part to a lack of training and guidance on how to oversee air carriers’ Safety Management Systems (SMS). We issued and FAA has taken action on a number of recommendations to strengthen its management controls related to overseeing and enforcing air carrier safety. Ultimately, while some of the issues we identified were specific to FAA local offices that oversee particular carriers, they present an opportunity for FAA to assess its overall oversight of air carrier safety programs.