The Federal Aviation Administration could not ensure that all check pilots were properly authorized between 2011 and 2015, according to a report released Wednesday.
The Office of Inspector General (IG) for the U.S. Department of Transportation audited the FAA's process for ensuring that check pilots have gone through the required training and evaluations before authorization and found over 16 percent were not properly authorized.
"Maintaining the safety of the National Airspace System depends on ensuring pilots have the knowledge and skills to properly operate passenger aircraft safely. This mission falls squarely on the shoulders of check pilots and APDs, who evaluate pilot proficiency in simulators and flight decks each day," the report said. "The Agency is not well positioned to ensure pilots in these important positions are fully qualified."
The job of a check pilot is to evaluate the knowledge and ability of commercial pilots to make sure they are able to fly large passenger planes. In order to be authorized, all check pilots must go through the proper evaluations, observations and trainings and have an FAA inspector to verify the information.
The FAA is in charge of authorizing aircrew program designees (APD) as well, which are check pilots that work on behalf of the agency to certify pilots and observe check pilots during their evaluations of pilots.
The report also found the FAA could not verify that 41 percent of authorized APDs were properly trained in the same time period.
In order to fix the problem, the IG recommends the FAA makes changes to the process and policies for training FAA inspectors to ensure they understand the importance of verifying check pilots and APDs information.
According to the report, the FAA has authorized over 4,000 check pilots in the last year and around 600 APDs. Over 71,500 commercial pilots are employed in the U.S. annually and are responsible for the safety of about 800 million passengers.