NATCA Testifies Against the FAA for Hasty Certification of the Eclipse - ATC - Aviation Information

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NATCA Testifies Against the FAA for Hasty Certification of the Eclipse

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Representatives from the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) are testifying today on the irresponsible and inappropriate actions taken by the Federal Aviation Administration during certification of the Eclipse EA-500.

In addition to representing the nation's air traffic controllers NATCA also represents nearly 1,700 engineers, including a unit of FAA aircraft certification engineers who ensure that aircraft are tested and safely designed in addition to investigating incidents and accidents in order to maintain the safety of certified aircraft.

NATCA is testifying against the FAA at today's hearing, citing reasons first published in its grievance against the FAA in October 2006, which condemned the agency for its underhanded certification of the Eclipse 500.

Testifying at the hearing on behalf of the union is NATCA Aircraft Certification National Representative Tomaso DiPaolo. Both DiPaolo and NATCA President Patrick Forrey provided written testimony to the committee.

Patrick Forrey's testimony:



"Beginning in July 2001 there were approximately 15 engineers and five test pilots working to assess the safety of the Eclipse 500 prototype. The process was proceeding normally, with engineers performing and overseeing a battery of tests and discovering issues to be addressed by the Eclipse Corporation."

"According to ordinary FAA procedure, for a new aircraft to be issued a type certificate (TC), each engineer responsible for testing a unique aspect of the aircraft design must sign off on the TC,approximately eight individuals for a project this size. These engineers are responsible for areas such as: electrical, software, and mechanical systems, structures (aircraft strength), and propulsion, while test pilots are responsible for flight testing. On the 29th of September 2006, a Friday, engineers were asked to sign off on the TC, but due to outstanding technical and safety concerns, refused. The following day, a Saturday that was the very last day of the fiscal year, the FAA abandoned its usual procedures, and FAA management granted the TC to eclipse with only one individual signing off."

Two aspects of prevailing FAA culture contributed to this breach of procedure and hasty certification of the Eclipse 500: the close relationship between the FAA and private sector aviation industry players and a business plan that rewards managers for speed rather than safety. Both represent a deterioration of the FAA?s safety culture."

"The inappropriately close relationship between the FAA and the private sector was brought to light when this committee investigated the failure of the FAA to conduct aircraft inspections at Southwest Airlines (SWA). As a result of the relationship between SWA management and FAA management, the FAA failed to ground 47 aircraft that were overdue for inspection for cracks in the fuselage, and another 70 aircraft overdue for rudder inspections. As a result, thousands of flights carrying hundreds of thousands of passengers were flown in potentially unsafe aircraft."

"This situation has played out again with Eclipse. Despite persistent concerns over the safety of the aircraft, FAA management signed off on the plans to manufacture, sell, and fly this aircraft without significant restrictions. They have again shirked their responsibility as a safety organization and have opted instead to help support a corporate bottom line."



NATCA Testifies Against the FAA for Hasty Certification of the Eclipse
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