An independent watchdog agency states the US Federal Aviation Administration did not properly accredit several of its safety inspectors to certify and assess pilot training, and then misled Congress when asked about safety oversight of Boeing 737 Max aircraft.

The Office of the Special Counsel on 23 September sent letters to Congress and President Donald Trump alerting them to the results of an investigation that includes allegations from an FAA whistleblower and internal agency communications. The letters and an agency statement were posted online 24 September.

Special counsel Henry Kerner in these letters states the allegations that were substantiated by an agency investigation “may have significant bearing on the competency of pilots certified to fly several aircraft, including the Boeing 737 Max and the Gulfstream 7”.

The FAA in a statement says the agency is reviewing the special counsel’s letter.

“We remain confident in our representations to Congress and in the work of our aviation safety professionals,” the FAA states. “Aviation safety is always our foremost priority, and we look forward to responding to the concerns that have been raised.”

Special counsel Henry Kerner says in a statement “the FAA’s failure to ensure safety inspector competency for these aircraft puts the flying public at risk”.

The US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation in April began investigating FAA training of safety inspectors in the wake of two fatal Boeing 737 Max crashes. Committee chairman Roger Wicker (R-MS) in an email says his staff will meet with the special counsel’s office this week to learn more.

“The Commerce Committee has been investigating a potential link in the evaluation of the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft and inadequate training,” Wicker says. “These findings are very troubling, and I will be looking at this issue very carefully as the committee continues its oversight of the FAA.”

Wicker in April requested a report to address whistleblower claims that numerous inspectors including those involved with the 737 Max group had not received proper training. The FAA in May responded that it discovered internal confusion about training requirements related to inspection of a Gulfstream jet, but Kerner states that agency report “obfuscates” concerns about the preparation of safety inspectors.

Kerner says his investigation revealed that FAA safety inspectors “were neither qualified under agency policy to certify pilots flying the 737 Max nor to assess pilot training on procedures and maneuvers”.

Of the 22 aviation safety inspectors assigned to offices in Seattle and in Long Beach, California, where 737 Max and Gulfstream 7 aircraft were certified, 16 of the 22 had not completed a required formal training course and 11 had not qualified to enroll in the course because they lacked flight instructor certificates, according to Kerner’s investigation.

A key factor in investigations of the two fatal 737 Max crashes is whether pilots were properly trained and prepared to respond to flight controls designed for those aircraft that automatically trimmed the jets into fatal nosedives. Kerner states developing those procedures was the chief responsibility of those “underqualified safety inspectors”.

“I strongly urge Congress to continue their already robust oversight efforts in this area,” he states.

Source: Cirium Dashboard