Currently, more than 400 FAA-certified repair stations in Europe perform work on U.S.-registered aircraft and components. To avoid duplicative oversight, the U.S. and the European Union (EU) signed an aviation safety agreement on May 1, 2011, to permit foreign authority safety inspectors to inspect EU repair stations on the behalf of the FAA. While FAA met the agreement’s deadline to transfer its oversight responsibilities to foreign aviation authorities, it did so without ensuring that the authorities were fully prepared to accept their new roles, according to a report issued by the U.S. DOT Office of the Inspector General.
In addition, the watchdog agency noted, the FAA did not follow its processes to assess foreign authority capabilities or ensure that these authorities completed their initial training on the agreement before the transfer. Training, procedural and data weaknesses further hinder the FAA’s ability to monitor EU repair stations. The FAA did not train its inspectors on how to conduct inspections on foreign authorities or provide them with written guidance on how to complete new inspection forms, leading to inaccurate reporting and insufficient information needed to ensure that FAA standards are being met.
Sarah MacLeod, executive director of the Aeronautical Repair Station Association, told AIN, “The OIG [Office of Inspector General] and the Government Accountability Office [GAO] have both commented on inspector training issues; indeed, the CRI ARC [Consistency of Regulatory Interpretation Aviation Rulemaking Committee] referenced the same problem. The fact that the OIG points it out again as a basis for its conclusion that the assessments and the oversight are inadequate is rather ironic. This is not the first time the OIG provided incomplete information to the public. The whole point of the bilateral [agreement] is to accept the oversight of the foreign government and focus attention on the differences between the regulatory requirements of cooperating countries. All regulatory authorities have issues with oversight capabilities. The OIG has brought lack of assessment, training and resource issues to the FAA’s attention multiple times; it is not surprising that the OIG found those issues with foreign authorities.”