The weak set of tools is backed by inadequate training, the OIG found. “FAA inspectors we interviewed stated they did not know how to use the risk assessment tools effectively because they were not formally trained,” the audit report states. FAA officials say training takes place at an agency training academy, but 33 of 36 inspectors interviewed by the OIG reported that they were not trained, could not remember being trained or considered the training “poor.”
Weak tools and questionable training sit atop an unsound program foundation, the OIG noted. Of the 16 inspection elements on a repair station audit, nine—including training, quality control and technical data—are required annually, regardless of risk. The other seven—including manuals, personnel records and records systems—are risked-based, with required checks every three years, if no risk is detected. FAA guidance does not explain why. (At foreign repair stations, everything is checked during each inspection.)
These shortcomings mean that repair stations are subjected to a haphazard, inconsistent inspection process that—according to the OIG, at least—is missing quite a bit.
The OIG team visited 27 repair stations, including 13 foreign facilities. Many are big-name MRO operations, including AAR Aircraft Services in Miami; Rolls-Royce Engine Services in Indianapolis; Heico’s component group in Miami; Ameco Beijing in China; Texas Aero Engine Services in Fort Worth; and Bombardier Services in Atlanta.
Among the OIG’s findings: 21 facilities lacked accurate mechanic training records; 13 had problems with tooling and equipment (such as out-of-date tool calibration records); and 10 had “deficiencies” in their maintenance processes, such as employees signing off on work they were not authorized to complete. The report did not link findings to specific repair stations.
The OIG made 10 recommendations to the FAA based on its findings. The FAA concurred with each one, noting that some, such as bolstering inspector training, are underway.
“While FAA has made strides in improving its inspections of repair stations by implementing a new oversight system, this system falls short of being truly risk-based, especially for foreign repair stations,” the OIG says.
The audit was the OIG’s third in the last decade on FAA repair station oversight; each found areas that needed improvement. This time around, however, the findings may foreshadow more than just the FAA stepping up to tackle another set of recommendations.