The deadly crashes of two Boeing 737 MAX aircraft that killed 346 people placed the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) under strict scrutiny for its role in approving the fatally flawed aircraft. Now, a new report by the U.S. Transportation Department’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) has slammed the agency’s oversight of the low-cost air carrier Allegiant Air.
The report was requested by several lawmakers and a final draft was sent to Congress last week detailing the investigators’ findings and recommendations.
According to the OIG, Allegiant Air is the nation’s 11th largest passenger airline and last year grew faster than the airline industry as a whole in the U.S. Concerns over incidents such as “in-flight engine shutdowns, aborted takeoffs, and unscheduled landings” led to the request for the investigation. The investigators assessed the FAA’s own investigatory processes regarding improper maintenance practices that affected safety and accountability measures to ensure the airline effectively addressed the underlying causes of the issues.
The OIG found that “[s]ince 2011, FAA inspectors have not consistently documented risks associated with 36 Allegiant Air in-flight engine shutdowns for its MD-80 fleet or correctly assessed the root cause of maintenance issues.” The report explained that FAA inspectors failed to follow agency guidance requiring them to document “changes in their oversight once they have identified areas of increased risk.” The reported also described how the FAA’s guidance could be improved by encouraging FAA inspectors to “consider the severity of outcomes when deciding what action to take following a non-compliance.”
The report included nine recommendations to help improve the FAA’s oversight of the air carrier maintenance issues. The FAA concurred with eight of the nine and partially concurred on one of the recommendations.
Testifying earlier this month during a congressional hearing about the Boeing 737 MAX, FAA Administrator Stephen Dickson told lawmakers that the traveling public’s safety was his agency’s top priority and appeared to reclaim some of the agency’s authority critics say was sacrificed as the FAA cozied up to Boeing and other well-funded special interests within the aviation industry. Administrator Dickson rejected Boeing’s proposal that the MAX would be approved again before the end of the year, saying that the agency would take as long as it needed to fully investigate the aircraft’s proposed changes to ensure its safety.
Additional source: Reuters