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Audit: FAA lacks reliable model for determining the number of flight standards safety inspectors it needs
24 June 2013

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) published the findings of their evaluation of how the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) assigns inspectors to Part 121 air carriers, including assessing the number and experience levels of inspectors and analysts, and how inspectors use surveillance methods to supplement their regular inspections.
Due in part to concerns raised after the 2009 Colgan Air accident, the U.S. Congress had directed OIG to conduct this evaluation.

The audit found that although FAA introduced a new inspector staffing model in October 2009, FAA has not fully relied on the model’s results to determine the number and placement of inspectors needed. This is due in part to continued concerns with the model’s incomplete, inaccurate, and outdated data. Without a reliable inspector staffing model, FAA’s process for assessing the number of inspectors and analysts it needs does not differ significantly from prior ineffective methods. For example, inspector staffing processes vary by region, which can lead to subjective and inconsistent staffing decisions. Finally, FAA supplements its regular inspections through its geographic surveillance program, a helpful oversight tool. However, OIG identified concerns with geographic inspector training and workload levels that may undermine the program’s success.

Seven recommendations to enhance FAA’s inspector staffing model and geographic surveillance program were made. FAA concurred with six and partially concurred with one.

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