DOT Report Says FAA Should Avoid ‘Nasty Shocks’

 - September 17, 2008, 11:15 AM

The FAA’s approach to Airworthiness Directive (AD) compliance was a significant feature in the Department of Transportation’s Independent Review Team report on “Managing Risks in Civil Aviation.” The team was formed after the FAA suffered what the report called a “perfect storm” earlier this year during AD compliance issues with Southwest Airlines and American Airlines. In Southwest’s case, the report noted, non-compliance issues resulted in the FAA being “broadly accused and roundly condemned for having slipped into excessively cozy relationships with industry.” Shortly thereafter, an American Airlines AD compliance problem caused the agency to be “accused of acting in an unusually harsh and legalistic manner, to the significant detriment of the traveling public.” The team noted that although ADs are regulations, “Law is almost never perfect, and can always be improved. Imperfections in law, and simple differences of interpretation, produce the possibility of nasty shocks for a regulated industry. As a general rule, regulators ought not to be in the business of delivering nasty shocks. Clarity of the rules, advance warnings, sufficient discussion, open communication channels and rapid resolution of disagreements, all go a long way toward eliminating the chance of such unpleasant and disruptive shocks.”