DOT Inspector General Takes Some Shots at FAA

The Department of Transportation’s Office of the Inspector General was busy this week, particularly with respect to issues relating to the #FAA.

On Wednesday, Matthew E. Hampton Assistant Inspector General for Aviation Audits, gave testimony regarding #FAA’s air traffic controller hiring, staffing, and training plans. He concentrated on three areas involving FAA’s controller workforce: (1) FAA’s progress and challenges addressing its controller staffing levels at the Agency’s most critical facilities; (2) FAA’s implementation of its new hiring process; and (3) significant workforce issues that require top FAA management attention and action.

The Assistant Inspector General testified that FAA faces challenges ensuring it has enough fully certified controllers to effectively balance controller training requirements with pending retirements, especially at its most critical facilities. This is in part because FAA does not consider facility-specific information when anticipating future retirements, and lacks sufficient data to determine how many controllers it needs. In addition, the Assistant Inspector General stated that FAA recently introduced a new process for hiring controllers but lacked an effective implementation strategy for the new policies. While it is too soon to assess the overall impact of the new hiring policies, the Agency continues to fall short of its hiring goals due to the lengthy process it takes to hire and train a controller. Finally, the Assistant Inspector General noted that there are several issues that will materially affect the controller workforce going forward that require senior FAA management attention. These include effectively implementing a new scheduling tool, integrating Unmanned Aircraft Systems into our airspace, and transitioning to new Next Generation Air Transportation System technologies.

Also on Wednesday, the Inspector General announced that it was initiating an audit of “grandfathered” airports’ use of revenue for non-airport related purposes. Under preexisting financial arrangements, these grandfathered airports may expend limited amounts of revenue for non-airport purposes, though FAA grant assurances state that revenue generated by airports must be used solely for airports. The audit objective is to assess FAA’s oversight of grandfathered airports’ compliance with Federal law related to airport revenue payments.

And finally, last Friday, June 10, 2016, the #OIG announced that on June 1, 2016, Paul Douglas Tharp was sentenced in U.S. District Court, Greensboro, NC, for serving as an airman without an airman’s certificate and filing a false tax return. He was sentenced to 21 months incarceration, 3 years supervised release, and ordered to pay $285,028 in restitution to the IRS. He pled guilty to the charges in January 2016.

Tharp admitted that he flew his aircraft four times while his pilot certificate was suspended. He also falsely represented himself as a mechanic who held a FAA Powerplant rating. He performed repairs on aircraft engine parts and falsified the maintenance record logs.

Tharp was previously convicted and sentenced in May 2015 in U.S. District Court, Charlotte, NC, for serving as an airman without a certificate and providing false statements to an FAA investigator. In that case, he was sentenced to 60 days incarceration, 3 years of probation, and ordered to pay a $5,000 fine. He was also ordered to sell his airplane and not enter an airport for 3 years, unless to fly commercially as a passenger.

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