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Friday, August 12, 2022
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Concerns Prompt OIG to Audit FAA Oversight of Boeing

The Department of Transportation’s Office of the Inspector General (DOT OIG) has announced an audit of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) oversight of the production of Boeing’s 737 and 787 aircrafts.

Air carriers transported more than 330 million passengers worldwide on Boeing aircraft in 2021. With the return to service of its 737 MAX aircraft and increasing demand for air travel, Boeing delivered more than 160 new aircraft to air carriers in the first half of 2022, with a backlog of nearly 4,200 aircraft on order. 

The FAA is responsible for overseeing the safety of passenger aircraft in the United States, including ensuring that aviation manufacturers such as Boeing meet safety requirements when producing and delivering new aircraft. 

Since 2019, a number of concerns have been raised regarding production of the Boeing 737 and 787 aircraft—the two production lines with the largest number of aircraft on order. DOT OIG says Boeing has not delivered any 787 aircraft in over a year due to production quality issues, and in December 2021, FAA mandated inspections on certain previously delivered 787 aircraft due to reports of missed requirements during assembly. In addition, a number of complaints to Congress, FAA, and DOT OIG have alleged ongoing production deficiencies and undue pressure on Boeing staff in the 737 and 787 production lines. 

In light of these concerns, the Chairmen and Ranking Members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and its Subcommittee on Aviation requested that DOT OIG evaluate FAA’s oversight of Boeing aircraft production. The audit objectives will be to evaluate FAA’s oversight of Boeing 737 and 787 production, specifically its processes for identifying and resolving production issues and addressing allegations of undue pressure within the production environment. 

DOT OIG plans to begin the audit in July at FAA Headquarters and regional offices responsible for overseeing Boeing production, as well as relevant Boeing locations. 

Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Chair of the Subcommittee on Aviation Rick Larsen (D-WA) welcomed DOT OIG’s announcement.

“We expect FAA and Boeing to fully cooperate with, and support, the DOT OIG’s audit,” the Chairs said. “Our committee has repeatedly raised serious concerns with these persistent and unacceptable problems—particularly at the non-union facility in South Carolina. This audit should be thorough and unsparing to help prevent a repeat of safety issues previously identified by FAA and to ensure the manufacture and production of safe aircraft.”

Earlier, on June 22, DeFazio said a National Academies consensus study report evaluating the FAA’s Transport Airplane Risk Assessment Methodology (TARAM) makes it clear that the FAA could better fulfill its responsibility to effectively and consistently collect and use data to advance passenger safety.

“The FAA must implement the critical recommendations included in this report without delay, and it should be voluntarily and fully participate in the National Academies’ process of producing these reports going forward,” DeFazio said. “If adopted, the recommendations offered by the National Academies will help the aviation industry to improve the safety of air travel in the future, something the industry should be striving to do every day.”

The study was a requirement of the 2020 aircraft certification law, the Aircraft Certification, Safety, and Accountability Act, and prompted by the committee’s Boeing 737 MAX investigation findings related to FAA’s TARAM analysis. The National Academies report includes a number of recommendations to strengthen FAA’s TARAM methodology and application.

Kylie Bielby
Kylie Bielby has more than 20 years' experience in reporting and editing a wide range of security topics, covering geopolitical and policy analysis to international and country-specific trends and events. Before joining GTSC's Homeland Security Today staff, she was an editor and contributor for Jane's, and a columnist and managing editor for security and counter-terror publications.

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