MAX Concerns Launch DOT Audit Of FAA Pilot Training Requirements


The U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Office of Inspector General announced on Monday that it has initiated an audit of the FAA’s pilot training requirements due to concerns raised by the fatal crashes of Lion Air Flight 610 in October 2018 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 in March 2019, both Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. The audit will review “domestic and international pilot training standards related to commercial passenger aircraft, including the use of automation.” It was requested by the chairmen and the ranking members of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and its Subcommittee on Aviation.

“These fatal accidents have drawn widespread attention to FAA’s oversight and certification practices, including the Agency’s process for establishing pilot training requirements for the aircraft,” Assistant Inspector General for Aviation Audits Matthew Hampton said in a memo (PDF). “According to the Lion Air accident report, the pilots’ responses to erroneous activations of MCAS contributed to the crash, raising international concerns about the role of pilot training.”

According to the Inspector General’s office, the objectives of the audit are to evaluate the FAA’s process for establishing pilot training requirements for air carriers operating U.S.-certificated passenger aircraft and to review international requirements “for air carrier pilot training regarding the use of flight deck automation.” The audit is expected to begin later this month.

Kate O'Connor
Kate O’Connor works as AVweb's Editor-in-Chief. She is a private pilot, certificated aircraft dispatcher, and graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

Other AVwebflash Articles


  1. I guessed that one right….
    Congress has to step in and do the FAA Administrator’s job and return the MAX back to service. Once again we are WAY OVER PAYING this over-weighted bureaucracy. Thousands and thousands of FAA employees are hiding under their cubical desk waiting for their retirement date while congressman are discussing pilot training requirements.

    Isn’t there a regulation that covers crew member training?

    • Contrary to the oft repeated mantra that the FAA is an overstuffed/underworked government agency quite the opposite is true. Government has been so underfunded and staffing so reduced that agencies like the FAA do not have the qualified people to proved effective oversight. “Less government” is not the solution.

      • Thanks Ron for replying, So what exactly does the FAA need to put the MAX back in the air? Many companies are loosing billions of dollars so, whatever it takes. NASA said they just need $38 billion to send people to the moon, will $38 billion put the MAX back in the air? if so lets get it done and move forward.

        Who do we give the money to?

      • How much funding does it take to say no?

        We could test the situation by having the FAA propose a number needed to do something and then evaluate their answer, but the first thing they will say is they need funds to examine how much the new project will cost.

        Sorry, but bureaucracy never has enough money. They cannot even put out a believable sum of what would be enough in fear they might be held to account when they fail anyways.

        The trick just might be to ask them what responsibilities they need to give up to get under budget. Think about that one a bit.

  2. A year after the grounding and with the MAX approaching reentry into the active fleet, and the OIG is just now getting around to an audit of flight crew training? Where have they been for the last 12 months?

  3. Please don’t expect too much from the DOT Aviation Subcommittee IG. Contrary to its original intent, the IG office has become largely a political tool of the House. The last time we heard from the IG he was making the case for privatizing ATC at the direction of the Transportation Committee Chairman (Schuster).

  4. This thing is not gonna fly unless the Feds are completely absolved. The DOT has to pass the smell test. This is too big, complex and unwelcome. The world is a witness.

  5. Okayy, so they do look at airline training standards, I am not impressed. How about starting at the beginning and creating and enforcing a set of actual pilot training standards from the get go? Yes, there are “practical standards” for all the ratings, but that doesn’t seem to mean much. As a retired big iron driver, I certainly saw a lot of right-seaters that held “paper” but little real knowledge about standards or aviation in general. They of course, knew the bare minimum but lots of easy stuff seemed to never have been covered. I know of various ratings that were actually “bought” not earned. I asked the FAA to look into one instructor that was passing a student, I worked with in a capacity outside aviation, but telling the student not to bother learning a myriad of things that would be important. As a newly minted CFI this same kid almost crashed a plane by trying to get a student to do something I would have been challenged to try.
    Training at the carrier level has issues, yes, but the root problem goes much deeper than that.

    • I agree. It is amazing how many right seaters I have had who did not even know that you fly a traffic pattern in VFR in a jet or that could not figure out how to fly a traffic pattern! That’s private pilot stuff. I am still trying to figure out what the audit of international training standards is going to accomplish.

    • Why don’t the airlines train their own employees, then? If you leave the whole thing up to small businesses that spend all their time on compliance, risk mitigation, and worrying about bankruptcy, you should be grateful you get what you do.

      While you are at it, build your own airports and stop blaming all your delays on traffic you guys cause yourselves.

    • David C. and Matt W. I agree as well, I’ve been involved on both ends, a Corporate Pilot (back in mid ’80’s) but my career took me to Managing Corporate Jets for Fortune 100 companies over the years. The problem started when the Knowledge Tests were made public back in the Mid 1970’s because of a judge ruling…. Now mechanics and pilots memorize test questions and the scores average in the 90’s and a lot close to 100!!!

      When I did the A&P and Pilot Exams in the late 70’s early 80’s, we had to take block instruction, taking “similar questioned tests” developed by the individual schools (most often a variation of the ACME Guides). You had to study the entire circular and understand it enough to reasonably answer the questions on the FAA test because one would have to understand the material. Scores during that time were averaging from mid 70’s to high 80’s. Yest the FAA written exams were hard to pass!!

      What you have now is a generation of pilots and mechanics that receive their certificates by memorizing questions from ground schools that recite the actual test questions over and over until passing is achieved on the exact test questions they will be taking for the FAA…..

      • Yes, yes, we all agree there is a problem.

        Why is it you think it’s a government problem? You all took jobs providing a service to companies that needed to get people from one airport to another. It’s really important, and complex, but it’s not brain surgery.

        Believe it or not, any licensed doctor can do brain surgery. The government does not check. Also, doctors are prevented by law from unionizing so a union cannot check. The Board certificates are not regulated and not required.

        You guys have many solutions for this stuff. Why always default to making the FAA fix it?

        • Any doctor can do brain surgery. Perhaps that’s why the US health care system kills a medium-sized city worth of people, through preventable medical errors, each year. So airplane crashes and shootings make the news, but they kill, essentially, a handful of people compared to other causes.

  6. Because the FAA makes the rules. In the pt135 world every aspect of the air carrier operation has to be approved by that carrier’s FAA principal operations inspector. I would guess the same applies to Pt121 ops as well. Any changes an air carrier wants to make to it’s training program has to be approved by that POI. One of the many issues this presents is that the enforcement is not the same from FSDO to FSDO as is any interpretations, time and duty rules are another example. I agree with Ron C. in that the FAA is so underfunded the delays involved when dealing with air carrier approvals can be very long. I could site all kinds of examples in delays involved making changes dealing with the FAA, it would probably exceed the word allowance of this blog!