The FAA’s repair station oversight process lacks the ability to identify risk, does not provide enough standardized inspection procedures, and is not training inspectors well enough to ensure they can use the tools they have, a government audit concludes.
The U.S. Transportation Department’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) report—the third in 10 years on repair station oversight—found that the agency’s shift to a risk-based system is suffering from major flaws. And the OIG also found that the FAA is not implementing it’s risk-based approach foreign repair stations.
The FAA began shifting to a risk-based system in 2007 with the intent of collecting data on a set of factors and use it to determine areas of risk. Inspectors would then focus on those areas to ensure repair stations were addressing known issues.
However, the FAA has not developed a “data package” that gives inspectors a benchmark, meaning inspectors are on their own to collect the data and determine risk, says OIG.
The OIG also found that data-collection tools are lacking. The agency’s web-based Repair Station Assessment Tool (RSAT) spreadsheet, for instance, was designed to include risk-assessment data only going back to the previous year, making it useless for evaluating long-term trends.
Adding to the challenge, OIG found that many inspectors do not use RSAT because they lack adequate training and instead create their own inspection checklists and, in some cases, provide feedback in hand-written notes to repair station executives.
The OIG team visited 27 repair stations, including 13 in foreign countries. Most of them are large MROs, including AAR Aircraft Services and Heico’s component group in Miami; Rolls-Royce Engine Services in Indianapolis; Beijing’s AMECO; Texas Aero Engine Services in Fort Worth; and Bombardier Services in Georgia. OIG found that 21 facilities did not have accurate mechanic training records, 13 had “weaknesses,” such as out-of-date tool-calibration records and 10 had “deficiencies” in their maintenance processes, such as employees approving work they were not authorized to complete. The report did not link any of these findings to specific repair stations.
This review generated 10 recommendations for the FAA. The FAA concurred with each one, noting that some—such as developing the data package and 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,” OIG says.