The DOT's Office of the Inspector General estimates that
audits of the FAA's oversight of Allegiant, American and Southwest will be
completed in the fall and winter.
The OIG also estimates it will wind up an audit of the FAA's
oversight of aircraft evacuation procedures in the fall.
The estimates, provided to Travel Weekly in response to an
inquiry about their progress, comes as the FAA faces new public scrutiny. Another
OIG audit is related to the FAA's certification of the Boeing 737 Max, which
has been grounded worldwide since March after two crashes killed 346 people.
The OIG said it anticipates completing its audit into the
FAA's oversight of Allegiant's and American's maintenance operations in the
fall. That audit technically began in June 2017 as a more general audit of FAA
oversight of aircraft maintenance. However, in May 2018, in the aftermath of a
scathing "60 Minutes" report that accused the FAA of being too cozy
with Allegiant and too tolerant of a series of Allegiant mechanical issues, the
OIG announced it would narrow the audit to hone in on Allegiant as well as on
The OIG estimates it will wrap up a separate inquiry into
the FAA's oversight of safety at Southwest in the coming winter. The inspector
general began that audit last June, two months after a Southwest passenger was
killed when a fan blade broke loose from one of the engines that was powering
the flight, sending debris through a window.
Also, last June the OIG began an audit into the FAA's
oversight of aircraft evacuation procedures. The office estimates that inquiry
will be complete in the fall.
As part of the audit, which came at the request of two top
Democrats on the House transportation committee, the OIG pledged to look at
whether the denser configurations of seats that carriers have installed on
aircraft over the past decade are affecting evacuation times. Those standards
have not been significantly updated since 1990.
Congress also weighed in on the issue in the FAA
reauthorization bill it passed last October. The bill included a measure
requiring the FAA to issue regulations on seat size and the space between rows
by this October. The requirements are to be based upon what is necessary for
the safety of passengers.