Aircraft Accidents and Surveillance Part Three

When I worked for the NTSB – and even after – many in management would lay everything wrong at the feet of the FAA. Plane overloaded? FAA isn’t doing its job. Pilot had stroke on final? FAA caused it. World hunger? Those FAA guys again. An asteroid hitting Manhattan? Get the Administrator before a Congressional hearing.
No doubt the FAA deserves many of the criticisms it receives; there’s enough reason for finger-wagging to go around. But as I’ve stated, if you want real problem solving, you have to get some perspective.
I’ve done audits on FAA certificate management offices (CMO) that oversee major airlines, those with in excess of 500 commercial jets in their revenue fleet; an airline that size employs in excess of several thousand pilots. Each pilot is rated on one or more aircraft, whether in the left or right seat, in most cases according to seniority.
By contrast the CMO may have fifty to sixty Operations (pilot) inspectors, of which managers are included in the total. These sixty men and women have to oversee several thousand pilots, 24/365. They do this surveillance in hundreds of cities in numerous countries. And they do it in forty work hours a week (not counting vacations, sick time and training) because the government does not allow overtime.
Now I may just be playing the realist, but that is not a recipe for complete oversight. These facts, plus the FAA’s non-commerce role, is why industry safety is determined in large part by each airlines’ commitment to pilot training and health.

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