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FAA vows inspector training reform to Senate

The US Federal Aviation Administration says in a report ordered by the Senate that it discovered internal confusion about training requirements and will reform some of its training processes as lawmakers investigate whistleblower allegations.

The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation is investigating FAA training of safety inspectors in the wake of two fatal Boeing 737 Max crashes. The investigation turned up a whistleblower complaint from July 2018 that the agency audited internally that did not involve the 737 Max but exposed inadequacies in FAA policy for inspectors.

FAA Acting Administrator Dan Elwell in a letter sent on 2 May to the committee’s chairman senator Roger Wicker, a Mississippi Republican, explains the audit of a whistleblower complaint regarding personnel inspecting a Gulfstream jet in 2018. The agency audit of their training revealed those inspectors were qualified but were sometimes confused what mandatory training they needed, Elwell says in the letter obtained by FlightGlobal.

Elwell says the discovery of ambiguities in FAA training processes is “an opportunity to improve our internal systems and procedures” and that the agency “welcomes scrutiny that improves aviation safety”.

The acting administrator also draws a line between that case involving Gulfstream jet inspectors and the training of inspectors who certified the 737 Max. Elwell says all personnel involved with determining 737 Max pilot training requirements were “fully qualified”.

Lawmakers are investigating whether FAA inspectors mandated enough training for pilots about flight control software designed for 737 Max aircraft to automatically trim its nose down. Evidence from the 737 Max aircraft that suddenly lost altitude before the crashes of Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 and Lion Air flight 610 indicates pilots struggled unsuccessfully to counter the automated controls.

Wicker says in a statement that he is grateful “the agency has acknowledged the need to reform some of its policies and procedures to ensure its personnel are appropriately trained”.

“The FAA’s response raises issues that the committee will continue to examine,” Wicker says.

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