The US FAA has launched the National Air Carrier Evaluation Programme to conduct third party review of maintenance programmes at the country's airlines to ensure proper compliance with regulations.
FAA launched the scheme as a result the disclosure in April 2008 of lapsed fuselage inspections on 46 Southwest Airlines Boeing 737s. In the aftermath of the disclosure, FAA oversight of airlines drew heavy scrutiny from the US Congress.
Agency manager of flight standards certification and surveillance David Gilliom says the programme, which was introduced in January, is being rolled-out gradually, and evaluations of two carriers have begun.
Gilliom explains that once the programme is fully deployed in roughly a year, the teams conducting the reviews should complete in excess of 10 audits annually.
The teams, comprised of FAA inspectors, will vary in numbers depending on the size of an airline. For larger carriers up to 15 inspectors might conduct a review while 6-7 will review compliance of smaller carriers.
The agency's inspectors assigned to the teams will receive specific training to participate in the reviews.
FAA plans to use a number of parameters to select airlines to undergo the audit, says Gilliom, including turnover in personnel.
Eventually all Part 121 carriers will be reviewed under the new scheme, says Gilliom