The Federal Aviation Administration IS the Problem Because of ‘Regulatory Capture’

American Airlines Boeing 757 Miami

American Airlines Boeing 757

The following commentary by contributor Richard Wyeroski is in response to yesterday’s news post titled ‘FAA Sends Warning to American Airlines Pilots to Stop Slowing Down its Flights‘. Wyeroski is a former FAA Safety Inspector.

Regulatory capture occurs when a state regulatory agency, created to act in the public interest, instead advances the commercial or special interests that dominate the industry or sector it is charged with regulating. Regulatory capture is a form of government failure, as it can act as an encouragement for large firms to produce negative externalities. The agencies are called “captured agencies”.

The FAA normally does extra surveillance on an airline when there is a bankruptcy or serious labor issues. If the union and management cannot come to an agreement and a strike happens, then the Feds sit down with all parties and try and work out an agreement.

In this case the FAA is actually part of the problem. For years the FAA has allowed substandard overseas”Third World” repair stations to start up with their approval. Little or no surveillance has been conducted at these facilities and a large increase of emergency returns has occurred.

A large part of the problems the Transport Workers Union is having with American Airlines management is this outsourcing of maintenance and the subsequent loss of union jobs.

In order to be competitive with other US carriers American has increased this outsourcing. I believe that there are problems ahead because the layers of safety that we have all come to expect from operating aircraft are now “GONE”.

An airline is made up of many people all working together to get an aircraft from A-B. The pilot is the one that pays the price when something happens and there is an accident or incident.

Let’s look at the situation: ¬†Outsourcing has caused many dangerous situations. As common as it may appear…engine failures, smoke in the cockpit and system failures seem routine and all in a days work. Time after time the crews successfully bring the aircraft back safely. Believe me it is pure hell…one mistake and everyone aboard could be killed!

The aircraft are not maintained to the highest level any longer and it is the FAA’s fault. Airline management have cut costs, reduced services and disregard safety. They may say “we take safety very seriously”, however, management puts a dollar value on your life and it is the FAA’s fault. It is about money and cutting costs. ¬†That is of the highest priority.

I am sorry to say that the FAA and the Airline management know this can not continue much longer. The inevitable outcome is an accident(s) that could be prevented. However they are ready with a dog an pony show when a crash happens. We call this “DAMAGE CONTROL”.

One fully loaded wide body airliner crash “will kill 400 people” and affect thousands of family members of the victims. The law suits will be in the hundreds of millions of dollars and may even bankrupt the airline itself. So how in Gods’ name does airline management knowingly cut costs to the extent that they have all their employees so worried that these employees (the pilots) would slow down and risk losing their jobs and destroy the company they work for.

So now the FAA is ready to take the pilots to task because they believe they are slowing down and not performing their jobs. How did this situation happen?

Unfortunately American Airlines management is not trusted by the union or its employees. That is a very sad situation. The fault is the FAA’s lack of proper oversight.

The regulator is not doing their job.

The FAA could fine the union, fine the airline and take enforcement against the flight crews.

I believe Acting Administrator Huerta does not know what to do. He has no aviation experience and is only a figurehead representing the FAA. Secretary LaHood has been very quiet on this and the FAA senior management at 800 Independence Avenue has caused this situation to occur.

Richard Wyeroski, former FAA Safety Inspector


  1. says

    Totally agree Richard. I love the visiting community with all my heart, but became frustrated with compromising basic safety in the name of profits. It caused me to leave more than one company…..

  2. Ed Jeszka says

    The FAA has a program that identifies an airline that is having additional difficulties and places them into a category that should warrant additional oversight and surveillance. This would be in addition to standard FAR Part 121 surveillance. However, in March of 2012, the FAA severely limited inspector travel due to budget shortfall (mismanagement).

    This would have the same impact as reducing inspection frequency and oversight reliability. The ATOS, “Air Transportation Oversight System” was supposed to enable inspectors to do more with less, only to have that result in fewer on sight FAA inspections. All in all, the system has fallen upon some unacceptable times. ATOS was viewed by many experienced inspectors as nothing less than a failure. Then budget constraints reduced their ability to perform normal levels of oversight.

    But the AMR certificate management office now enters into this picture by warning the flight crews about causing delays due to reported maintenance issues. I would like to think that if a pilot felt it unsafe to fly a plane full of passengers, the FAA would applaud his efforts to remedy the issue before he departed and not become one of the hundreds of emergencies that have taken place. Most pilots who flew years ago will remember the “napkin maintenance reports”. This culture took many years to correct. Now the “New FAA” seems to desire airlines revisit the old days. It was a hazard to airline safety when it was used and will be a hazard to safety if it is re-introduced due to the threats of the AMR CMU to increase surveillance of pilots who “dare” to delay a flight for a maintenance write up.

    The safety of the flying public can not be sacrificed for profit. If the FAA can not perform the functions for which it was initially started then perhaps the management at FAA should be replaced. Consideration by Congress to require the FAA to simply do its job under all conditions should be foremost in all legislators agendas tasked with the oversight of the DOT and FAA. A rudderless organization often times does more harm than good. That appears to be the case we are faced with. The hope we should all have is that by its failure to adequately perform its job, the FAA does not create a situation that jeopardizes aviation safety and ultimately ends in disaster and not simply numerous emergencies.

    Ed Jeszka
    FAA Aviation Safety Inspector, Retired
    FWA FAA Whistleblower Alliance

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *