Watchdog Says FAA Inspector Ignored American Airlines Safety Problems

Jul 12, 2018

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

An inspector with the Federal Aviation Administration ignored safety complaints after developing a cozy relationship with American Airlines managers, a recently surfaced government watchdog report says.

The US Department of Transportation Inspector General says the FAA inspector, assigned to American for 28 years, failed to act on legitimate complaints on how the carrier assessed the safety of its aircraft after they had undergone maintenance. The federal inspector had also gone on an overseas trip with a manager from the airline, the report found.

Federal regulations require airlines to test planes’ airworthiness after significant repairs or other maintenance work, otherwise known as a flight test program. Safety issues were raised to the FAA against American’s flight test program, including “the use of unqualified pilots,” the report says.

The DOT watchdog group found the FAA’s oversight of American Airlines “lacked objectivity.”

The safety complaints against American were raised by the Allied Pilots Association, the union that represents the airline’s pilots, and went unaddressed for more than a year and a half. After the DOT Inspector General raised concerns about compliance, the FAA opened an audit of American’s flight test program in the fall of 2017. That audit found that the program was not following the airline’s written manuals, which violates regulations. As a result, the FAA reassigned the inspector.

The FAA inspector was not named in the report and has since retired from the institution.

TPG reached out to the FAA for more information, and we were referred to the agency’s response included in the DOT’s report. “The FAA has initiated several safety enhancements to the American Airlines Flight Test Operations Program,” the FAA says in its response. “New initiatives include the establishment of a Safety Analysis Team comprised of all relevant stakeholders, and the development of a new Risk Management Process.”

The FAA also says that it will begin implementing the watchdog’s recommendations by October 2018, and it expects all of the DOT’s recommendations to be fully implemented by June 2019.

“American welcomes the Department of Transportation (DOT) Office of Inspector General’s (OIG) report of FAA oversight into American’s Flight Test program a maintenance ferry flight and aircraft evaluation program,” the airline said in a statement emailed to TPG. “While these flights do not carry passengers, the safety of our crew members is paramount.”

“Last fall, we placed the Flight Test group under new leadership and began a top-to-bottom internal review,” the AA statement continued. “Shortly after, the FAA began its own independent review. American has been working with the FAA and the Allied Pilots Association (APA) to address concerns that were raised in these reviews. Last week, we notified the FAA that we have taken action to address and implement nearly all of the recommendations made in order to follow best practices and strengthen the safety of the program.”

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 80,000 Points


CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Plus earn up to $50 in statement credits towards grocery store purchases within your first year of account opening.
  • Earn 2X points on dining including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel. Plus, earn 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories.
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on eligible orders over $12 for a minimum of one year with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
  • Get up to $60 back on an eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access Membership through 12/31/2021, and get full access to their workout library through the Peloton app, including cardio, running, strength, yoga, and more. Take classes using a phone, tablet, or TV. No fitness equipment is required.
Regular APR
15.99%-22.99% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.