FAA imposes "cooling off" period for inspectors

Reuters News
Posted: Aug 19, 2011 3:03 PM
FAA imposes "cooling off" period for inspectors

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Aviation regulators tightened rules for when safety inspectors can work for airlines, changes intended to avoid the type of cozy relations that upended Southwest Airlines Co.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requirements finalized on Friday apply to senior aircraft inspectors who go to work for airlines they oversaw.

Those officials must now wait two years before representing the carrier in any safety matter before the FAA. Until now, there was no waiting period.

"This rule establishes clear restrictions that will improve our safety culture here at the FAA and throughout the aviation industry," FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt said.

The Transportation Department Inspector General's office concluded in 2008 that FAA oversight of Southwest maintenance was so cozy that the agency allowed the carrier to repeatedly violate safety rules in 2006 and 2007.

That finding grew out of a congressional investigation of structural inspection lapses of Southwest's Boeing 737 aircraft.

Southwest agreed to pay a $7.5 million fine stemming from the case and several Southwest and FAA employees lost their jobs.

(Reporting by John Crawley; Editing by Richard Chang)