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Oversight of Designees Based on a Wing and A Prayer-IFEN, GAO Report released
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NEWS




From Representative
PETER DeFAZIO
Fourth Congressional District, Oregon
Contact Kristie Greco - 202-225-6416

November 16, 2004
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

OVERSIGHT OF DESIGNEES BASED ON A WING AND A PRAYER

WASHINGTON, DC-U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio, Ranking Democrat on the House Aviation Subcommittee, today released a GAO report which found that FAA's oversight of its designee program is toothless and ineffective.

"We're basing oversight of critical safety functions on a wing and a prayer," said DeFazio. "The GAO report essentially shows that the FAA can not guarantee the effectiveness of its designee program, nor the safety and integrity of the aviation industry. While designees provide a valuable service, oversight clearly needs to be improved and maintained. A large majority of the work done to ensure the safety of our aircraft, pilots and mechanics is conducted by designees and we can't cut corners on overseeing their work."

The FAA's designee program was called into question during the investigation of the 1998 Swissair Flight 111 fatal crash. The Transportation Safety Board of Canada suspected that an entertainment system may have contributed to an electrical fire on the plane. An FAA designee certified the system in accordance with FAA policy, but the TSBC noted that the FAA's policy for overseeing designees lacked clarity and needed revision.

The report, requested by DeFazio and released today found that the FAA has not made oversight of its designee program a priority. There is not enough personnel to oversee the program, the agency has not set clear performance standards for designees and is not consistently enforcing federal regulations. There is no policy to address conflicts of interest, and unqualified designees are not removed expeditiously.

GAO found that the FAA's oversight is impeded by: 1) incomplete data on FAA's oversight of designee activities, 2) workload demands place on FAA staff who oversee designees, and 3) the lack of adequate training for FAA staff who perform oversight duties.

The GAO's recommended improvements are: 1) hold designees accountable for their findings; 2) ensure that FAA employees who oversee designees are knowledgeable about the regulations, policies and processes for their designees' particular specialization; 3) select designees according to their qualifications and experience rather than on personal association with FAA managers; 4) clearly define and consistently follow the criteria for selecting designees; 5) increase penalties for designees found to violate standards or who do not exercise proper judgement.

The FAA delegates 90 percent of its safety certification to private individuals and organizations known as "designees." There are approximately 13,600 designees who are divided into 18 different programs. The FAA has only evaluated 6 of the programs in the last 7 years.

Designees are responsible for such tasks as certifying aircraft technology, design and production; airworthiness of planes; medical fitness of pilots to fly aircraft; and the capability of mechanics to perform work on airplanes. Designees provide a valuable service to the FAA by conducting routine activities, allowing the FAA to target its work on the most critical certification functions. Designees are able to provide more timely service to the aviation industry and expand the FAA's access to technical experts within the aviation community.

more Defazio : LINK

The report:

http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-05-40

Highlights:

http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d0540high.pdf

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Posts: 2574 | Location: USA | Registered: Sun April 07 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Defazio letter:

The Honorable David M. Walker
Comptroller General
U.S. General Accounting Office
441 G Street, N.W., Room 700
Washington, D.C. 20548

Dear Mr. Walker:

Ensuring the safety and security of the U.S. aviation system is critically important to the nation's economic well-being. Since September 2001, the Congress and the administration have focused attention and resources on ensuring the security of air travel. It is equally important that we stay focused on the safety of air travel. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) faces the daunting task of ensuring the safe operation of more than 200,000 commercial and general aviation aircraft by over 612,000 licensed pilots. To carry out this task, FAA delegates many activities to approved private persons, or designees. For example, designees may examine, test, and inspect aircraft and test and certificate pilots and aircraft mechanics.

Such delegation is, undoubtedly, necessary given the vastness of the U.S. aviation system. However, FAA's designee program has come under sharp criticism. In May 2001, Business and Commerce Aviation reported that "FAA's inspection designee program is spiraling out of control with more than 20,000 designees for FAA inspectors to oversee." Your recent report for the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on aviation mechanics also alluded to problems with FAA's oversight of the designees that test and certificate the mechanics. Additionally, an article in the February 17, 2003 issue of USA Today questioned FAA's reliance on designees, suggesting that the aviation industry was supervising itself without adequate controls and oversight by FAA. This article further cited your concerns about the designee program and noted your interest in reviewing the adequacy of FAA's oversight. FAA has indicated that it is looking at ways to improve its oversight and has drafted an organizational delegation authority proposal to do so.

I would like you to extend the work on designees that you began in the aviation mechanics report and provide a comprehensive descriptive analysis of FAA's designee program that includes, but is not limited to, the following questions:

· What activities do designees perform under FAA's oversight and how large are FAA's designee programs?

· What processes does FAA use to employ and oversee designees, including those for removing them?

· To what extent will FAA's organizational delegation authority proposal address the reported problems with the agency's controls and oversight and ensure the designee programs' integrity and effectiveness?

If, in the course of your work you identify other relevant issues that you believe the Committee should be aware of, I would like you to include them in your analysis. Should you have any questions or need additional information, please contact Stacie Soumbeniotis at (202) 225-9161.

Sincerely,

PETER A. DEFAZIO
Ranking Democratic Member
Subcommittee on Aviation
Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
 
Posts: 2574 | Location: USA | Registered: Sun April 07 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Report criticizes oversight by FAA
By Gary Stoller, USA TODAY
The federal government provides weak oversight of 13,000 private contractors it uses to inspect and certify airlines' planes and aircraft repairs, the Government Accountability Office said.
The GAO report recommends that the Federal Aviation Administration evaluate all certification programs involving its contractors "” or "designees" "” and improve management. The FAA relies on contractors to perform 90% of its certification work, the report says.

The GAO began looking into the adequacy of the FAA's programs in March 2003 after a USA TODAY article on the crash of a Swissair jet. Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., requested the study.

The article documented faults with an interactive entertainment system on the jet, which caught fire and crashed into the Atlantic Ocean near Nova Scotia in September 1998. Documents showed the entertainment system was incorrectly installed and improperly certified by private individuals and companies representing the FAA. All 229 people aboard the flight, which had taken off from New York, died.

After the article, Canada's Transportation Safety Board concluded the crash was most likely caused by an electrical wiring short-circuit. The board said that one or more wires connected to the entertainment system short-circuited, but it couldn't determine whether those wires or wiring for another aircraft system initiated the blaze.

DeFazio said the report suggests the government is overseeing critical safety programs "on a wing and a prayer." He said it shows FAA "cannot guarantee the effectiveness of the designee program, nor the safety and integrity of the aviation industry."

The GAO report points out various weaknesses in the FAA's oversight of contractors, including:

"¢ Inadequate surveillance and inconsistent interpretations of safety rules.

"¢ Lack of computer databases that reveal whether FAA staff are carrying out their oversight responsibilities.

"¢ Lack of refresher training for FAA staff.

"¢ Failure to quickly remove inactive, unqualified or poorly performing designees.

GAO said some aviation experts it consulted said contractors were chosen on the basis of connections to FAA officials. The FAA said personal knowledge of applicants for the certification programs and their work is appropriate.

The FAA said it "will carefully examine the expert opinions cited by the GAO." It says it has already taken steps to improve oversight and provide more training.

The agency said, "The continually improving U.S. safety record speaks for itself, due in large part to the work of the nation's designees."

Brian Turmail, a spokesman for Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, said DOT "will review the GAO report carefully and take the appropriate steps."

http://www.usatoday.com/money/biztravel/2004-11-18-faa-oversight-criticized_x.htm
 
Posts: 2574 | Location: USA | Registered: Sun April 07 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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quote:
After the article, Canada's Transportation Safety Board concluded the crash was most likely caused by an electrical wiring short-circuit. The board said that one or more wires connected to the entertainment system short-circuited, but it couldn't determine whether those wires or wiring for another aircraft system initiated the blaze.


Just wanted to point out that the TSB Final report inferred quite a bit stronger than this that the IFEN was involved in causing the crash, probably as the ignition source. Quite a few pages were devoted to it. Let's not allow those responsible off the hook.

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Posts: 2574 | Location: USA | Registered: Sun April 07 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Report Critical of FAA Oversight
Gregg Moss (9NEWS Business Reporter)
Created: 11/18/2004 8:40 AM MST - Updated: 11/18/2004 8:40 AM MST






(WASHINGTON) - The federal government provides weak oversight of 13,000 private contractors it uses to inspect and certify airlines' planes and aircraft repairs.

The GAO report recommends that the Federal Aviation Administration evaluate all certification programs involving its contractors - or "designees" - and improve management. The FAA relies on contractors to perform 90% of its certification work, the report says.

The GAO began looking into the adequacy of the FAA's programs in March 2003 after a USA TODAY article on the crash of a Swissair jet. Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., requested the study.

The article documented faults with an interactive entertainment system on the jet, which caught fire and crashed into the Atlantic Ocean near Nova Scotia in September 1998. Documents showed the entertainment system was incorrectly installed and improperly certified by private individuals and companies representing the FAA. All 229 people aboard the flight, which had taken off from New York, died.

After the article, Canada's Transportation Safety Board concluded the crash was most likely caused by an electrical wiring short-circuit. The board said that one or more wires connected to the entertainment system short-circuited, but it couldn't determine whether those wires or wiring for another aircraft system initiated the blaze.

DeFazio said the report suggests the government is overseeing critical safety programs "on a wing and a prayer." He said it shows FAA "cannot guarantee the effectiveness of the designee program, nor the safety and integrity of the aviation industry."

The GAO report points out various weaknesses in the FAA's oversight of contractors, including:

. Inadequate surveillance and inconsistent interpretations of safety rules.

. Lack of computer databases that reveal whether FAA staff are carrying out their oversight responsibilities.

. Lack of refresher training for FAA staff.

. Failure to quickly remove inactive, unqualified or poorly performing designees.

GAO said some aviation experts it consulted said contractors were chosen on the basis of connections to FAA officials. The FAA said personal knowledge of applicants for the certification programs and their work is appropriate.

The FAA said it "will carefully examine the expert opinions cited by the GAO." It says it has already taken steps to improve oversight and provide more training.

The agency said, "The continually improving U.S. safety record speaks for itself, due in large part to the work of the nation's designees."

Brian Turmail, a spokesman for Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, said DOT "will review the GAO report carefully and take the appropriate steps."


http://www.9news.com/acm_news.aspx?OSGNAME=KUSA&IKOBJECTID=4c574fbc-0abe-421a-0067-f058646134b3&TEMPLATEID=0c76dce6-ac1f-02d8-0047-c589c01ca7bf

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Posts: 2574 | Location: USA | Registered: Sun April 07 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Mark went to Canada in March of '03 to hear the results of the final report. He spoke with a CTSB investigator who was very forthcoming about the cause of the crash and how they discovered it. Mark and I have no doubts whatsoever from following this situation for many years as to what caused this terrible tragedy. The entertainment system pure and simple. They found one of the wires to the entertainment system arced and they suggested strongly in their report that the other wire was probably also another IFEN wire. It gets very old to see these vague, IMHO inaccurate remarks. It also has left the criminals who have caused this horror off the hook. I think that's just awful.
 
Posts: 2574 | Location: USA | Registered: Sun April 07 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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