Inspectors' Union Presents Safety Concerns to Senate Lawmakers

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Tom Brantley, national president of the Professional Aviation Safety Specialists, AFL-CIO (PASS), released the following statement regarding his testimony today before the Senate Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety, and Security on FAA oversight of air carriers:

“PASS is extremely concerned that the agency has become so focused on working in partnership with the airlines that it has allowed its safety mission to become a lower priority, in many cases ignoring warnings from its own inspector workforce. The slew of aircraft groundings suggest that there are safety problems within the system that are not being addressed. PASS wants to ensure that the factors that have contributed to recent events are thoroughly examined and any problems corrected in order to make sure that we are not discussing tragic events in the future.

“With fewer inspectors out in the field, the FAA is touting its Air Transportation Oversight System (ATOS) as an effective way to prioritize the workload of safety inspectors based on risk. Yet, it is clear from the evidence over the last few months that ATOS data, the majority of which is provided by the airline, cannot be relied upon without physical verification. Inspectors have informed PASS that the fundamental flaw of ATOS is that they are not performing enough hands-on surveillance. In fact, whereas inspectors used to spend most of their time out in the field, they now tell PASS that they are spending more than 70 percent of their time at their desks.

“The combination of fewer inspectors in the field and agency pressure to collaborate with the industry has resulted in a situation where the FAA is relying more and more on the airlines to regulate themselves. The FAA’s Customer Service Initiative (CSI) actually makes it easy for airlines to remove inspectors who try to hold them accountable. While giving an airline the right to ask for a review of an inspector’s decision is a valid concept, the fact that the FAA is permitting air carriers to use the CSI to remove an inspector simply for doing his or her job is appalling. Guidance for the CSI even directs the agency to treat the airlines—not the flying public—as the customer. PASS recommends that this program be suspended until there can be an independent review of the program to ensure that it is being used properly and is achieving intended results.

“The FAA’s recent actions to improve the inspection program do little to address the concerns of aviation safety inspectors. The FAA should be focusing on increasing FAA inspector staffing in order to provide adequate aviation safety oversight of the industry in this country and abroad. It is time for the FAA to once again make safety its priority.”

A copy of PASS’s testimony is available at

For more information or questions, please contact Kori Blalock Keller at (202) 293-7277 x110.


PASS represents more than 11,000 employees of the Federal Aviation Administration and the Department of Defense who install, maintain, support and certify air traffic control and national defense equipment, inspect and oversee the commercial and general aviation industries, develop flight procedures and perform quality analyses of the aviation systems. For more information, visit the PASS website at

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