A whistleblower’s complaints led to a federal investigation that uncovered disturbing shortcomings within the agency.
A whistleblower has come forward with allegations that the FAA allowed unsafe airplanes to fly commercial operations, according to the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, which said it investigated the complaints and uncovered troubling abuses from within the agency.
In a June 13 release, the OSC described that the whistleblower uncovered that the FAA approved certain aircraft to operate commercially without reviewing “critical safety information”, which, in the case of some of those aircraft, would have resulted in them being labeled unfit to fly. Additionally, due to errors in the Civil Aviation Registry, some airplanes have flown without valid registrations or airworthiness certificates.
Special Counsel Henry J. Kerner described the danger of these errors.. “When the FAA does not know the location of an aircraft, the owner of an aircraft, or whether the owner might be deliberately attempting to circumvent safety regulations, that’s a serious problem,” he said in the release.
According to the OSC and the whistleblower, the issue had been raised several times both verbally and in writing with the agency to no avail. After being unable to get the FAA to investigate, the whistleblower reported the issues to the OSC on December 19, 2016.
In addition to aircraft being allowed to fly in commercial operations without safety reviews, valid registrations and airworthiness certificates, it was also revealed that there had been cases of FAA employees and management receiving locality pay while not working at those locations. This had been reported to the FAA in 2015, yet it was uncovered that the issue is more widespread than originally thought, according to the OSC..
“Thankfully, because a whistleblower came forward, the FAA now appears to be taking this issue seriously and has initiated corrective action to ensure inspectors don’t cut corners and are better equipped to keep our airspace safe,” Kerner said in the release.