The Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) relies on the mantra “safety is our business, our only business” where, for example, justifying changes in aircraft flight paths over heavily populated residential communities. But is that reality? Not according to the Office of Inspector General, U.S. Department of Transportation (“OIG”) report of October 23, 2019, Department of Transportation’s Fiscal Year 2020 Top Managerial Challenges (“OIG Report”), when dealing with members of one of FAA’s primary constituencies, the aircraft manufacturers.

Specifically, the OIG Report highlights significant “challenges FAA faces in meeting its safety mission,” p. 1. Most notable is the correction of its lax oversight of aircraft certification procedures as graphically demonstrated by the recent deaths of 346 people in two separate crashes of Boeing’s 737-Max 8 aircraft, at least preliminarily thought to have been caused by systemic malfunctions in computer systems designed and installed by Boeing but never disclosed to operators.

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Rep. Jerry Costello (D-IL), Chairman of the Aviation Subcommittee remarked in his opening statement that it is: “inexcusable and unacceptable to ignore rules, regulations and standard practices to accommodate those you have responsibility to regulate especially when you have people’s lives in your hands.”   With that in mind, the Subcommittee heard testimony from the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) that the FAA had “alarming problems” and “severe lapses” in judgment in its certification process for the Eclipse EA-500, a Very Light Jet (VLJ). VLJs have been heavily promoted as a potential solution to congestion around larger airports, and as a means tobring a convenient, fast transportation alternative to smaller communities that cannot support network commercial air service.

In particular, the OIG made three findings concerning the EA-500 certification process. First, OIG found that the FAA permitted exceptions to its usual design certification process. For example, the FAA accepted an “IOU” from Eclipse that it would meet accepted standard at a later date for the avionics software. For an aircraft that relies heavily on software, the OIG would have expected the FAA to perform rigorous analysis and testing. Second, the OIG found that the FAA awarded Eclipse a production certificate even though the company failed to demonstrate the ability to replicate the approved design. This was despite that fact that Eclipse encountered numerous problems replicating its won aircraft design on the assembly floor both before and after receiving its certificate. Finally, Senior FAA management identified Eclipse as a priority certification and appeared to be lenient with the manufacturer.


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Yesterday, June, 11, 2008, the House Aviation Subcommittee heard testimony (click on link for video the hearing) on a situation that is becoming more dire as every day passes – Air Traffic Controllers are retiring, leaving a dearth of qualified, trained controllers to take their places.  The House Aviation Subcommittee convened the hearing to find