Safety Inspector Staffing System Found Faulty

 - July 1, 2013, 2:00 PM

The Department of Transportation’s inspector general (IG) believes the formula the FAA uses to determine the number of inspectors required to maintain system safety is flawed, despite the facts that 4,000 FAA safety inspectors are employed nationwide, and that the agency has an enviable Part 121 safety record. In a June 20 report, the IG said, “The [FAA’s] model is faulty–containing incomplete, inaccurate and outdated data–and cannot be relied on to determine the number and placement of inspectors needed.” The FAA model was established just months after the start of an investigation into the 2009 crash of a Colgan Bombardier Q400 in Buffalo, N.Y., that uncovered “potential weaknesses in the FAA’s oversight of Part 121 air carriers, including concerns about whether [the agency] has enough inspectors.” As an example, the IG noted that the agency tracks the numbers of hours worked by each inspector per task, adding that rather than reflecting a quantifiable number, the data gathered is based on an outdated formula. The FAA has been cited in other reports for inadequate data gathering. One reason the IG believes the FAA continues to operate with this outdated formula stems from earlier failures to establish quantitative measurement tools demanded in a 2006 recommendation by the congressionally mandated National Research Council. A few of the IG’s initial recommendations ask the FAA to formulate a staffing plan with measurable milestones, as well as a process to check whether those milestones have been met.