Under a new FAA rule published on Monday, certain aviation safety inspectors who work for the agency must wait two years before they can be offered a job from air carriers and other certificate holders. “The flying public can rest assured that our aviation safety inspectors will remain focused on protecting the flying public without any conflicts of interest,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. The new rule aims to address concerns raised by Congress and the DOT Inspector General in 2008 about the FAA’s oversight of Southwest Airlines. An analysis by the inspector general’s office found that FAA staffers overseeing Southwest had developed an “overly close relationship” with the airline, the FAA said.
The rule applies to airlines and many other operators, but exempts most general aviation operations under Part 91. One exemption is fractional programs that operate under subpart K of Part 91. The FAA says the rule should minimize any potential public perception that: (1) An ASI could compromise current aviation safety if that individual were to be promised post-FAA employment by an operator over which that individual has direct oversight responsibilities; and (2) a former FAA employee working for an operator could attempt to exert undue influence on current FAA employees with whom that former employee had established close working relationships. This post-employment prohibition also applies to the more likely case of former ASIs who would become consultants to the operator. “By prohibiting such relationships, the public will have greater confidence in the FAA’s independence from the aviation industry and in the integrity of the FAA inspection system,” the FAA said. “Such benefits from this increased public confidence in the integrity of the FAA inspection process cannot be quantified.”