I've been looking at some Airworthiness directives lately (yes, it's what I do for fun, I said
I was obsessed didn't I), and have come to the
conclusion that it's far past time to either fix the FAA, or replace it with a new organization. Inspectors have become too close to the airlines,
and far too often things aren't changed until people are injured or killed, even when known beforehand. And when they are ordered changed, to prevent
"undue harm" to the airlines, they're frequently given five years or more to actually do the work.
A few examples:
Prior to the United 811 accident, a PanAm 747 departing from London had the forward lower lobe cargo door partially open, resulting in a
depressurization problem. They returned to London, and the FAA issued an Airworthiness Directive (AD 88-12-04) to alter the cargo door, to prevent it
from opening in flight. The aircraft used on the United 811 flight hadn't gone through the update yet, as they had between 18 and 24 months to
perform the update.
After 811, when it was proven that the cargo door could open in flight, the time was shortened to 30 days. The initial change would have given the
airlines 5 years to perform the update mandated as a result of the accident. According to the NTSB, the issued AD
didn't go far enough.
Recently a Boeing 787-8 suffered the loss of an engine, due to significant damage from ice buildup that broke loose and went through the engine. This
is a result of the new Performance Improvement put into the engines by GE to improve fuel burn. The FAA has issued an AD requiring crews to go to 85%
power every five minutes under certain conditions, as well as replacing one PiP2 engine with an older PiP1 engine, and shaving the engine casing of
the PiP2 engines to create more space between the fan blades and casing.
Despite the 787 being a twin engine aircraft, and this being a major safety consideration, the FAA issued a normal Airworthiness Directive, instead of
an Emergency Airworthiness Directive, and gave the airlines 150 days to perform the engine portion of the AD. The AD doesn't go into effect until May
9th, and they will take comments on it until June 6th.
Airbus Angle of Attack Sensors
Certain model Airbus aircraft have shown a possible loss of control situation, if equipped with certain Angle of Attack sensors. It began when an
A321 suffered the blockage of two AoA probes, which led to loss of Alpha Protection and Mach number increasing. When Alpha Protection is lost due to
this condition, the aircraft orders a full nose down attitude, which in a worst case scenario can't be overridden even by full back on the
The FAA issued a Notice of Proposed Rule Making in November of 2015 about the proposed AD, even though the European authorities issued an AD in July
of 2015. The FAA AD doesn't take effect until May 18th of this year, and gives airlines almost two years to replace AoA one model of sensors, and
seven months for the other. Airbus has approached the FAA to reduce that time to 12 and 3 months respectively.
AoA sensor AD
Another job of the FAA is to perform compliance inspections, which check that all the parts stored by the airlines are compliant with FAA rules. They
all have to have part and serial numbers, etc. It's been reported by whistleblowers in the airline industry that well ahead of when the inspectors
are coming, sometimes months ahead of time, the airlines are notified that an inspection is coming. They then have been known to rent warehouse space
away from the airport, where they would store non-compliant parts so that they wouldn't be found during the inspection.
Several years ago, Southwest Airlines was fined $10.2M for flying 46 aircraft without performing inspections for cracks, after FAA inspectors
reportedly passed on sensitive data to them, ignored safety violations, and attempted to intimidate other inspectors to stop an investigation.
Memos from Boutris and another FAA whistle-blower, Douglas Peters, said that others in the office objected to their attempts to enforce basic
safety standards at Southwest. Boutris and Peters say FAA officials overseeing enforcement were too close to Southwest managers. A top Southwest
maintenance official had recently left the FAA and was friendly with several of the agency's top inspectors, they said.
Boutris said he had been raising concerns since 2003 about the airline's monitoring of aircraft parts identified as problem-prone in previous
accidents. The review he finally launched in 2007 is what resulted in the fine against Southwest.
This is not an isolated incident sadly, and as time goes on it will only get worse, as airlines are outsourcing maintenance to other countries. One
of those facilities has a single mechanic that is FAA certified, and no inspectors that monitor their work. The FAA had 100 inspectors in Asia that
would travel to various facilities to monitor and inspect their work. That has since been cut to a single inspector. And maintenance from these
facilities has led to serious incidents. An Airbus flew a week with 30 fasteners missing in the wing. Another flew with flammable paint, not
approved for aircraft applied. A US based 737 had to make an emergency landing after a part around the forward passenger door was installed upside
down, resulting in a pressurization problem. Another had cockpit instruments wired incorrectly.
It's time to create an agency that is independent, and performs these features instead of the FAA. Something that can be trusted, and has safety
beyond "nothing changes until people die" as its attitude.
edit on 4/24/2016 by Zaphod58 because: (no reason given)