The FAA’s Inspector General this week begins an audit to review how well the agency is protecting its own Voluntary Disclosure Reporting Program (VDRP) against misuse. The IG has expressed concern that the “FAA may rely too heavily on self-disclosures to identify safety issues, which may promote a pattern of leniency in the acceptance and closure of these reports.” The IG noted a 2008 case in which the agency allowed a major airline to repeatedly self-disclose violations of mandatory safety directives without ensuring the carrier had developed and implemented solutions to prevent recurrence of the reported problems. The audit, which begins September 19 and is mandated by the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, will include visits to FAA headquarters and regional offices as well as select flight standards service field offices that oversee commercial airlines.
The VDRP allows air carriers to voluntarily report adverse safety issues without fear of enforcement actions. Carriers are required to develop comprehensive solutions to identified safety issues in order for FAA to accept the disclosure and absolve the carrier of any penalty.