Transportation Dept. watchdog to audit FAA oversight of airline maintenance

Transportation Dept. watchdog to audit FAA oversight of airline maintenance

The Office of Inspector General for the Department of Transportation said Wednesday it would launch an audit of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) oversight of airline maintenance on two U.S. carriers. 

The inspector general in a memo said it would alter the scope of an ongoing audit due to multiple congressional requests for the office to evaluate the FAA’s oversight of Allegiant Air, which last month was the subject of an CBS News “60 Minutes” report about the airline’s mechanical issues. The audit will also evaluate the FAA’s oversight of American Airlines.

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“Our objectives now are to assess FAA’s processes for investigating allegations of improper maintenance practices at two carriers, Allegiant Airlines and American Airlines,” the office wrote in the memo.

“Specifically, we will (1) examine FAA’s independent reviews, complaints to the FAA hotline, and other sources to see whether inspectors conducting routine surveillance of Allegiant and American Airlines found similar discrepancies and (2) determine whether FAA ensures that Allegiant and American Airlines implement effective corrective actions to address the root causes of maintenance problems.” 

The inspector general cited a letter from Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonDem campaign chairman expresses confidence over path to Senate majority The Hill's Morning Report: Dems have a majority in the Senate (this week) Dems urge tech companies to remove 3D-gun blueprints MORE (D-Fla.), the ranking member of the Senate Commerce Committee, in its decision to realign the current audit. Nelson in a letter last month called upon the inspector general to conduct a thorough probe or audit of the FAA’s oversight of Allegiant.

“The traveling public deserves to know whether the FAA is conducting thorough safety oversight of Allegiant. Anything less could lead to disastrous consequences,” Nelson wrote at the time.   

“I urge you to specifically review all internal communications between the FAA and Allegiant to ensure that no efforts are being undertaken to impede a full and forthright investigation of the airline’s maintenance and operational issues,” the senator added.

The inspector general’s decision to alter the realm of its probe comes amid increased concern over airline safety after a passenger onboard a Southwest Airlines flight died when a piece of an engine broke off, shattered a window and partly sucked her out of the plane.

After the passenger's death, Southwest sped up its engine inspections, which the airline's CEO said should be completed by the end of May.