Timelines provided for audits of FAA's safety oversight

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The DOT's Office of the Inspector General estimates that an audit of the FAA's oversight of Allegiant will be completed in the fall.
The DOT's Office of the Inspector General estimates that an audit of the FAA's oversight of Allegiant will be completed in the fall.

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 American. 

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.

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