Some FAA Inspectors Found to Lack Proper Training, Probe Reveals

(Bloomberg) -- The Federal Aviation Administration acknowledged that a whistleblower was correct in saying that some of its personnel were short on training, but says those people weren’t working on the Boeing 737 Max program, as alleged by the Senate panel that launched a probe into the matter.

An agency review of whistleblower claims found some inspectors lacked required training, FAA Acting Administrator Daniel Elwell said in a May 2 letter to Mississippi Senator Roger Wicker, chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, after the panel’s questions about FAA personnel involved in the 737 Max approval.

“It is not accurate, however, to suggest that this whistleblower disclosure and investigation implicated the qualifications of the Boeing 737 Max Flight Standardization Board,” Elwell wrote, referring to an agency group involved the certification process, in the letter released by the agency on Friday.

The inspectors in question worked on pilot certification of the Gulfstream GVII aircraft. A manager who retaliated against the whistleblower no longer works at the agency, which said it’s taken steps to ensure all its inspectors have the required training.

In a statement, Wicker said he was pleased the FAA had acknowledged the need for improvements, but stopped short of saying the panel’s probe would end.

“The FAA’s response raises issues that the committee will continue to examine,” Wicker said. “We are working to make sure the people and processes that certify airplanes continue to be the safest in the world.”

Wicker on April 2 announced the committee had begun an investigation after “multiple whistleblowers” provided the committee with information alleging that “numerous FAA employees, including those involved in the Aircraft Evaluation Group for the Boeing 737 Max, had not received proper training and valid certifications.”

The Senate panel’s probe is one of several investigations and reviews by U.S. officials, lawmakers and prosecutors into how the FAA cleared the 737 Max as safe to fly.

The Transportation Department’s inspector general is reviewing the FAA’s process for approving the airworthiness of new jets and also aiding a Justice Department criminal probe. Separately, a panel of international aviation regulators organized by the FAA held their first meetings this week as part of a 90-day review of the 737 Max’s certification.

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