Plane inspectors from the Federal Aviation Administration are claiming managers continuously pressure inspectors to conceal unsafe and hazardous plane problems, according to a CBS News investigation.
Requesting to stay anonymous, two inspectors who both have a decade of experience on the job are advising that the public wake up and realize the possible dangers of flying. Problems inspectors were told to disregard included corrosion of plane materials. The two whistleblowers explained that if the inspectors proceeded to do their jobs, retaliation and punishment occurred.
“I’ve been flat out told to back off,” one inspector told CBS News. “I’ve had airlines contact my management and ask them not to assign me any inspections to that airline.”
With supporting evidence to their claims, a 2016 Inspector General’s report corroborated the two inspectors. According to the report, another inspector, Charlie Banks, was punished by the FAA after completing his job of reporting problems with Miami Air International, which has since had a crash landing and multiple fuel line issues—something Banks covered in his report.
These alarming claims come just around the time U.S. plane manufacturer Boeing has come under scrutiny with the FAA. Both whistleblower inspectors pointed to recent Lion Air and Ethiopian Airline crashes as examples of what can happen. The March 2019 crash in Ethiopia involved 157 lives lost, whereas 189 lives were lost in the 2018 crash off the coast of Indonesia.
“We’re on the verge of an issue happening … we’re talking about a crash inside the United States borders,” one inspector warned CBS News.
The claims also shed light on the FAA’s new policy of mutual cooperation with airlines, enacted in 2015 in place of its usual enforcement-focused model.
“The FAA has a comprehensive safety oversight system that encourages the sharing of information to identify problems and ensure they are fixed,” the FAA said in a statement. “The FAA thoroughly investigates all safety hotline and whistleblower claims, and does not tolerate reprisals against people who report concerns.”