FAA Announces New Efforts to Respond to Safety Concerns

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Administrator Randy Babbitt today announced a new focus on improving the agency’s response to public safety complaints and whistleblower contributions, as well as renewing efforts to ensure consistent interpretation of agency regulations and policies. He also outlined ongoing actions to ensure that air carriers comply with safety directives while minimizing disruptions to passengers.

In addition, the FAA is improving how it communicates and interacts with employees, the public, air carriers, and manufacturers, based on last year’s focused inspections on air carriers’ compliance with Airworthiness Directives (ADs). That effort resulted in flight cancellations and prompted questions about the treatment of whistleblowers and the FAA’s relationships with airlines.

“These changes make it clear that the FAA’s number-one customer is the public,” said Administrator Babbitt. “We value the safety information we receive from our employees, the public and industry, and these actions reinforce that. We know we can improve how we all communicate technical safety information so we maintain a safe U.S. fleet and avoid flight cancellations wherever possible.”

The changes include the following:

    * Creating a new Office of Audit and Evaluation that will handle all public safety complaints and whistleblower contributions. It will serve as the focal point for the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, Government Accountability Office, and the Department of Transportation’s Inspector General. It will oversee the FAA Administrator’s Hotline, Aviation Safety Hotline, Public Inquiry Hotline, Whistleblower Protection Hotline, and the Safety Issues Reporting System.
    * The FAA will no longer refer to airlines as the agency’s “customer.” Instead, through the Consistency and Standardization Initiative, the FAA is now providing managers and supervisors in safety offices around the nation with guidance to ensure that FAA decisions are consistent with rules and policies and are communicated in a standard, consistent manner.
    * The FAA is strengthening the procedures used by air carriers, manufacturers, and the FAA to ensure that air carriers comply with ADs. The goal is to maintain safety while minimizing disruptions to passengers by improving:
          o service information and instructions from aerospace manufacturers
          o air carrier management of planning and prototyping how ADs are implemented
          o FAA coordination with the air carriers through the planning and prototyping process

In addition, the FAA is strengthening its procedures to assist inspectors when they make compliance determinations and use the Alternative Method of Compliance.

    * The FAA is acting on five short-term recommendations from an AD Compliance Review Team of experts to improve the clarity and interpretation of ADs. The agency has also chartered an Aviation Rulemaking Committee to identify and implement long-term actions that can be completed by the third quarter of 2011.

For detailed information on each initiative, go to www.faa.gov/news/fact_sheets.