FAA's Aviation Safety Inspector And Analyst Staffing Under Review


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FAA's Aviation Safety Inspector And Analyst Staffing Under Review

By Eddy Metcalf

April 10 2, 2011 - As directed by Congress in the Airline Safety and FAA Extension Act of 2010, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) plans to review the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) Aviation Safety Inspectors (ASI) and Operations Research Analyst (ORA) staffing at commercial air carriers.   

The National Transportation Safety Board also highlighted this issue in its report on the 2009 Colgan Air accident, concluding that commercial carriers that experience rapid growth, increased complexity of operations, or increased accidents or incidents warrant more stringent FAA oversight.   

OIG audit objectives will be to evaluate the FAA?s process for assigning Aviation Safety Inspectors and Operations Research Analyst to each Part 121 air carrier and to assess the number and level of experience of Aviation Safety Inspectors, Operations Research Analysts assigned to each Part 121 air carrier; and to evaluate the FAA?s use of other surveillance processes to supplement the inspections performed by assigned oversight offices. 

The United States has the world?s safest air transportation system. To help maintain safety and ensure air carriers comply with aviation safety regulations, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) employs more than 4,000 Aviation Safety Inspectors (ASI). These inspectors are supported by about 30 FAA Operations Research Analysts (ORA) who analyze air carrier and inspection data to identify risk areas. Although FAA oversight was not cited as a causal factor in the 2009 fatal accident of Colgan Air flight 3407, the tragedy underscored the need for constant vigilance over aviation safety. 

On February 12, 2009, a Colgan Air, Inc., Bombardier DHC-8- 400, N200WQ, operating as Continental Connection flight 3407, was on an instrument approach to Buffalo-Niagara International Airport, Buffalo, New York, when it crashed into a residence in Clarence Center, New York, about 5 nautical miles northeast of the airport. The 2 pilots, 2 flight attendants, and 45 passengers aboard the airplane were killed, one person on the ground was killed, and the airplane was destroyed by impact forces and a postcrash fire. 

The National Transportation Safety Board determined that the captain of Colgan Air flight 3407 inappropriately responded to the activation of the stick shaker, which led to an aerodynamic stall from which the airplane did not recover. In a report adopted in a public Board meeting in Washington, additional flight crew failures were noted as causal to the accident.
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