Facing Scrutiny 'From Everywhere,' FAA Looks To Adapt

 - November 8, 2019, 12:17 PM

The FAA, which has come under intense scrutiny in the wake of the Boeing Max crashes, has been taking a close look of its procedures to find ways to improve its approach, a key agency official said. Speaking this week at the 2019 NATA Aviation Leadership Conference, Timothy Shaver, director of FAA’s Office of Safety Standards, said, “This is probably one of the most challenging periods we’ve faced in a while. There’s a lot of scrutiny from everywhere. It’s really made us retrospective in our views.”

The agency is “truly looking back” at its policies and procedures, and how it does business, Shaver added. “We are finding areas where we can improve with the changes in technologies and other advancements…we’re excited to be able to bring in some of those changes and address some of those challenges.”

From the Flight Standards perspective, this includes the continuation of its multi-year reorganization effort that is redistributing staff to be better functionally focused and more fully implement policies. This may have a technical person and policy person side-by-side so they have a more complete view of policies throughout their lifecycles. “We’re looking at the way we group our folks.”

But Shaver also acknowledged that limited staffing in a face of growing workload has presented challenges. He noted programs, incentives, hiring policies and other efforts to “bring in folks to the workforce.” At the same time, the FAA is considering several options to better balance its workload including “looking at designee programs, what we can delegate, and how we delegate it. All of those things are being considered.” He stressed that it still requires oversight. “We are approaching it gingerly but we do realize there are things we have to do” to enable industry to continue to progress.

The agency also has continued to progress on its consistency efforts, including the standing up of the Regulatory Consistency Communication Board (RCCB), which provides a means for industry to raise policy issues. “We are very happy with the results,” he said. Some of the issues take time to sort through he said, but the “nice thing is it focuses our effort.”

In addition, Shaver added the FAA is “getting real close” on completing a consolidated regulatory library that provides a resource on regulations and policies. Further along those lines, the FAA is looking at its inspector handbook guidance to enable that the industry and FAA are working from the same documents.

Shaver also noted requirements for all policies to be sent through the DOT for review. This extends the time it takes to release them, but it is ensuring, particularly with guidance, that every stipulation is tied to a regulatory requirement and not imposing a new one.