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Audit: FAA has not effectively overseen Southwest Airlines’ SMS
12 February 2020

Audit: FAA has not effectively overseen Southwest Airlines’ SMS

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) concluded following an audit, that the FAA has not effectively overseen Southwest Airlines’ safety management system (SMS).
On March 9, 2015, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) established requirements for air carriers to implement a formal, top down approach to identifying and managing safety risks, known as  However, recent events have raised concerns about FAA’s safety oversight, particularly for Southwest Airlines, one of the largest passenger air carriers in the United States.
In early 2018, the OIG received a hotline complaint regarding FAA’s oversight of Southwest Airlines and a number of operational issues at the carrier. Subsequently, in April 2018, Southwest Airlines Flight 1380 suffered an engine failure, killing one passenger on board. In June 2018, the OIG initiated an audit to assess FAA’s oversight of Southwest Airlines’ SMS.
Findings
The audit found that Southwest Airlines continued to fly aircraft with unresolved safety concerns. For example, FAA learned in 2018 that the carrier regularly and frequently communicated incorrect aircraft weight and balance data to its pilots. Southwest Airlines also operated aircraft in an unknown airworthiness state, including more than 150,000 flights on previously owned aircraft that did not meet U.S. aviation standards. In both cases, the carrier continued operating aircraft without ensuring compliance with regulations because FAA accepted the air carrier’s justification that the issues identified were low safety risks.
Also, FAA inspectors did not evaluate air carrier risk assessments or safety culture as part of their oversight of Southwest Airlines’ SMS. This is because FAA had not provided inspectors with guidance on how to review risk assessments or how to evaluate and oversee a carrier’s safety culture.
The audit resulted in eleven recommendations to the FAA to improve its oversight of Southwest Airlines’ SMS. The FAA concurred with all recommendations.
More information:

Kazakhstan extends suspension of Bek Air’s AOC over safety issues

The Kazakhstan Aviation Administration extended the suspension of Bek Air’s Air Operator Certificate after it found several safety issues during an inspection at the airline following a fatal accident.

On December 27, 2019, a Fokker 100 of Bek Air crashed on takeoff from Almaty Airport, killing twelve. The aviation authorities proceeded to suspend the carrier’s AOC after this accident and initiated an inspection.

The authorities reported details of their findings, that led them to extend the suspension. Among others, the authorities noted issues with the tracking and record keeping of parts. For instance, serial numbers were removed from engines, making it impossible to verify the compliance of the engines, as well as to confirm the actual number of hours and cycles.
Also, flight crew training records were found to be incomplete and in some cases their authenticity was called into question.
With regards to the recent accident, the authorities state that CCTV evidence shows that no tactile inspection of the wings was carried out prior to departure.  This is a necessary check to determine the presence of ice on the wings.

If the violations are not remedied within 6 months, the AOC and the airworthiness certificates will be revoked.

The airline, in turn, issued a statement, responding to all issues raised by the authorities. For example, Bek Air states that id plates were removed that were “weakly attached” to important and expensive units (usually engines) and stored in the office of the aviation engineering team.

 

FAA proposes $5.4 million civil penalty against Boeing over nonconforming slat tracks on 737 MAX

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) proposes a $5.4 million civil penalty against Boeing for allegedly installing nonconforming slat tracks on approximately 178 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, which Boeing subsequently presented as ready for airworthiness certification.

This proposed civil penalty is in addition to a previously proposed civil penalty of more than $3.9 million against Boeing for allegedly installing the same nonconforming components on approximately 133 Boeing 737 NG aircraft. The FAA sent that letter to Boeing in early December.

Slat tracks are located on the leading edge of a Boeing 737’s wings and are used to guide the movement of panels known as slats. These panels provide additional lift during takeoff and landing.

The FAA alleges that Boeing failed to adequately oversee its suppliers to ensure they complied with the company’s quality assurance system. The agency contends that this failure resulted in the installation of slat tracks that were weakened by a condition known as hydrogen embrittlement that occurred during cadmium-titanium plating.

The FAA further alleges that Boeing knowingly submitted aircraft for final FAA airworthiness certification after determining that the parts could not be used due to a failed strength test at a third-tier supplier, indicating the presence of hydrogen embrittlement.

The FAA alleges that Boeing failed in this instance to maintain its quality system to ensure suppliers adhered to Federal Aviation Regulations.

Boeing has 30 days after receiving the FAA’s enforcement letter to respond to the agency.

More information:

Audit: FAA needs to improve oversight to address maintenance issues at Allegiant Air

Following an audit, the Office of Inspector General  concluded that the FAA needs to improve its oversight to address maintenance issues impacting safety at Allegiant Air.

Low cost airline Allegiant Air, the 11th largest passenger airline in the United States, grew faster than the airline industry as a whole in 2018 by carrying approximately 14 million passengers. However, incidents at this air carrier –  including a series of in-flight engine shutdowns, aborted takeoffs, and unscheduled landings – have raised concerns about its maintenance practices.  The Office of Inspector General (OIG) of the U.S. Department of Transportation thus initiated an audit in 2018 to assess FAA’s processes for investigating improper maintenance practices at Allegiant Air. Specifically, FAA’s (1) oversight of longstanding maintenance issues impacting safety at Allegiant Air and (2) process for ensuring Allegiant Air implemented effective corrective actions to address the root causes of maintenance problems.

The OIG found that since 2011, FAA inspectors have not consistently documented risks associated with 36 Allegiant Air in-flight engine shutdowns for its MD-80 fleet or correctly assessed the root cause of maintenance issues. This was because inspectors did not follow FAA’s inspector guidance that requires them to document changes in their oversight once they have identified areas of increased risk. Also, FAA’s Compliance Program and inspector guidance do not include key factors related to carriers’ violations of Federal regulations. Specifically, they do not contain provisions for inspectors to consider the severity of outcomes when deciding what action to take following a non-compliance. As a result, FAA is missing opportunities to address maintenance issues and mitigate safety risks in a timely manner.

Nine safety recommendations were issued to the FAA.

FAA proposes $145,452 civil penalty against Sioux Gateway Airport

 The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) proposes a $145,452 civil penalty against the Sioux Gateway Airport for numerous alleged safety violations at the Iowa airfield.

The FAA inspected Sioux Gateway Airport in May 2018, June 2019 and September 2019 and found numerous alleged violations each time. The FAA alleges the airport repeatedly failed to maintain surfaces, runway and taxiway markings, and visual wind direction indicators.

In May 2018 and June 2019, FAA inspectors found the airport did not properly grade the Runway Safety Areas for both runways to eliminate hazardous ruts, humps, depressions or other surface variations. The FAA also alleges the runway and taxiway markings were not properly maintained and were not clearly visible, lacked proper lighting, marking or signs, and wind indicators were faded, making them difficult to see.

In September 2019 during a construction inspection, FAA inspectors found that two taxiways were not properly marked, and one of them was not properly maintained, creating potentially hazardous Foreign Object Debris.

Sioux Gateway Airport has 30 days after receiving the FAA’s enforcement letter to respond to the agency.

FAA downgrades safety rating for Venezuela to Category 2

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced that the Venezuelan regime does not comply with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) safety standards under the International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA) program and has been assigned a Category 2 rating.

A Category 2 IASA rating means the country either lacks laws or regulations necessary to oversee air carriers in accordance with minimum international standards, or its civil aviation authority is deficient in one or more areas, such as technical expertise, trained personnel, record-keeping, inspection procedures, or resolution of safety concerns. At this time there are no flights between the United States and Venezuela.

The FAA has determined the Venezuelan regime no longer complies with international aviation safety standards. The FAA recently conducted an extensive review based on safety-related information currently available, and determined that a change in the IASA category is required. Due to conditions in Venezuela flights between (PDF) the United States and Venezuela are already prohibited by the DOT and Department of Homeland Security.

As part of the FAA’s IASA program, the agency assesses the civil aviation authorities of all countries with air carriers that have applied to fly to the United States, currently conduct operations to the United States, or participate in code-sharing arrangements with U.S. partner airlines, and makes that information available to the public. The assessments determine whether or not foreign civil aviation authorities are meeting ICAO safety standards, not FAA regulations.

A Category 1 rating means the country’s civil aviation authority complies with ICAO standards. With an IASA Category 1 rating, a country’s air carriers can establish service to the United States and carry the code of U.S. carriers. In order to maintain a Category 1 rating, a country must adhere to the safety standards of ICAO.

FAA revokes certificate of maintenance firm that delivered faulty 737 MAX AOA sensor to Lion Air

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued an order on October 25, 2019, revoking the repair station certificate of Xtra Aerospace, LLC, of Miramar, Florida.

According to the order, Xtra failed to comply with requirements to repair only aircraft parts on its list of parts acceptable to the FAA that it was capable of repairing. The company also failed to comply with procedures in its repair station manual for implementing a capability list in accordance with the Federal Aviation Regulations. Xtra is a repair station certificated under part 145 of the Federal Aviation Regulations.

The FAA began its investigation in November 2018. Investigators looked specifically at the company’s compliance with regulatory requirements that apply to its capability list, and records and work orders for aircraft parts it approved for return to service. The investigation determined that from November 2009 until May 2019, Xtra failed to complete and retain records in accordance with procedures in its repair station manual to support parts on its capability list. The company also did not substantiate that it had adequate facilities, tools, test equipment, technical publications, and trained and qualified employees to repair parts on its capability list.

The agency issued the order as part of a settlement agreement with the company. Under the agreement, Xtra waives its right to appeal the revocation to the National Transportation Safety Board or any court.

On the same day the order was issued, the Indonesian NTSC investigators published their final report on the Lion Air Boeing 737 MAX crash. It was concluded that MCAS activation on a previous flight was caused by faulty repair and calibration of an AOA sensor by Xtra Aerospace.  This led the NTSC to issue a safety recommendation to the FAA: “The absence of equivalency assessment required by Xtra Aerospace procedure and unavailability of procedure was not detected by the FAA. This indicated inadequacy of the FAA oversight. Therefore, NTSC recommends that the FAA improves the oversight to Approved Maintenance Organization (AMO) to ensure the processes within the AMO are conducted in accordance with the requirements.”

 

Ukrainian authorities suspend YanAir’s AOC over safety issues

Ukrainian authorities suspended YanAir’s Air Operator Certificate over safety issues on June 7, 2019.

The airline was involved in an incident in Moldova on April 19, 2019. YanAir operated a Boeing 737-400, UR-COX, on behalf of Air Moldova on a flight from Istanbul, Turkey, to Chisinau, Moldova.

On approach the failed to follow ATC instructions, flying an erratic approach pattern. As a result, the Civil Aviation Authority of the Republic of Moldova started an investigation and on 26 April 2019 notified the competent authority of Ukraine and forwarded to it the information collected to investigate the circumstances of the event.

The State Civil Aviation Administration of Ukraine then conducted a comprehensive inspection of YanAir. This revealed a number of remarks, some of which are critical, in the organization of the carrier’s activities, which could adversely affect the safety of flights. These findings led the authorities to suspend the airline’s AOC from 00:00 UTC 07 June 2019.

The operator’s certificate can be restored after the issues have been rectified by the company.

 

EASA extends validity of conflict zone warnings for Sinai and Yemen

The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) extended the validity of its Conflict Zone Information Bulletins for Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula and Yemen.

 

FAA: Costa Rica does not comply with ICAO safety standards

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced that the Republic of Costa Rica does not comply with ICAO safety standards and has been assigned a Category 2 rating based on a reassessment of the country’s civil aviation authority.

A Category 2 International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA) rating means the country either lacks laws or regulations necessary to oversee air carriers in accordance with minimum international standards, or its civil aviation authority – a body equivalent to the FAA for aviation safety matters – is deficient in one or more areas, such as technical expertise, trained personnel, record-keeping, or inspection procedures. With a Category 2 rating, Costa Rica’s carriers can continue existing service to the United States. They will not be allowed to establish new service to the United States.

In 1996, Costa Rica was assigned an initial Category 1 rating, meaning the country’s Direccion General de Aviacion Civil (DGAC) complied with ICAO standards for aviation safety oversight. The FAA conducted an in-country reassessment of Costa Rica under the IASA program in October 2018, and met with the DGAC in February 2019 to discuss the results.

As part of the FAA’s IASA program, the agency assesses the civil aviation authorities of all countries with air carriers that have applied to fly to the United States, currently conduct operations to the United States, or participate in code-sharing arrangements with U.S. partner airlines, and makes that information available to the public. The assessments determine whether or not foreign civil aviation authorities are meeting ICAO safety standards, not FAA regulations.

ICAO

As part of ICAO’s Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme (USOAP) an ICAO audit was conducted at Costa Rica’s DGAC in 2017.  The country then scored an average of 89,26% level of Effective Implementation of its safety oversight system, placing it among the 30 highest ranking countries in the world.

 

More information:
ASN Safety Profile Costa Rica