Aircraft Accidents and the FAA

First things first, let me make one thing abundantly clear: the FAA, like the NTSB and all agencies, is a bureaucracy. This means that all operations are run by presidential appointed party officials. Their experience in the appointed Department may be substantial or may be non-existent. They make promises that are unrealistic and often unobtainable; these assurances may be dangerous or devastating, according to the Department.
That being said, the inspectors, investigators and specialists that do the job of the Agency are usually experienced in the FAA. Whether they come from a GA background or with an air carrier history, the FAA inspector, for the most part, is experienced to do the job.
The same can’t be said for management, who have, at times, been placed in slots their experience doesn’t support. They then try to manage a division that goes against everything they understand.
But how does the FAA fit into the accident investigation field? The FAA inspectors I’ve had on my NTSB investigatory teams are professional; I’ve never run into one that didn’t understand the industry we were investigating. Sometimes, according to where the aircraft crashes, the inspector assigned to the various investigatory groups doesn’t have the basic knowledge of the aircraft or airline. This is rare because the FAA has a vested interest in the final report.
I worked an accident one time where the evidence pointed to an FAA inspector who fell behind the curve, unaware of the games the air operator was playing. The FAA has to run interference in cases like this; the investigation wasn’t corrupted in any way, but the inspector was prevented from any further self-inflicted damage.
And here is an irony: the NTSB management types reveled in ridiculing the FAA in the media and in their reports at every opportunity. The irony was that, as I pointed out earlier, the NTSB’s experience was not near the level of the FAA. That is not a defense of the FAA, but one can understand their efforts to keep the Board at bay.

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