FAA Proposes Limits on Companies Hiring FAA Inspectors

WASHINGTON — In a move to prevent potential conflicts of interests that could affect aviation safety, the Federal Aviation Administration is proposing to put limits on airlines and other operators hiring FAA safety inspectors and their managers for two years after those employees leave the agency.

The proposed rule would prohibit air carriers, flight schools, repair stations and other certificated organizations from employing or contracting with former FAA inspectors and managers to represent them in agency matters if the former employee had any direct oversight of the certificate holder in the preceding two years. This rule also would apply to anyone who owns or manages a fractional ownership program aircraft.

“We’re committed to making sure operators don’t hire their former FAA inspectors and create even a perception of inappropriate activities,” said FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt. “The ‘cooling off’ period we’re proposing actually exceeds the restrictions applicable to most businesses that hire former Federal employees.”

Current law basically forbids former federal employees (including those at the FAA) to represent an entity before the government on matters in which they were involved. It also places a 2-year restriction on those same former employees from representing anyone in matters that the employee was directly responsible for. The new proposal goes a step further by placing inspector hiring restrictions on FAA-certified companies and fractional ownership operations themselves.

FAA policy already provides for a 2-year cooling off period for newly employed aviation safety inspectors, prohibiting them from having certificate management responsibilities over their former aviation employer.

The rule would not keep operators from hiring former inspectors to serve in other positions (e.g. aircraft dispatcher, flight attendant, maintenance technician, pilot, or training instructor) as long as they do not represent the operator in FAA matters.

The FAA is asking for public comments until February 19, 2010. The text of the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking is at: http://www.federalregister.gov/OFRUpload/OFRData/2009-27852_PI.pdf