FAA: Bad Parts A Growing Problem - Will Software Be Next?


The US Department of Transportation's Inspector General released its audit of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) oversight of aircraft manufacturersâ'' quality assurance systems for both domestic and foreign suppliers. The audit found that the FAA's risk-based oversight system "does not ensure that manufacturers regularly audit their suppliers," nor does the FAA "perform enough audits of manufacturersâ'' suppliers (i.e., supplier control audits) to test how well manufacturersâ'' quality assurance systems are working."

As a result, substandard processes are being used by some parts suppliers (e.g., at one supplier, "an employee used a piece of paper, scotch-taped to the work surface, as a measuring device for a length of wire on an oil and fuel pressure transmitter") thereby allowing for "substandard parts to enter the aviation supply chain."

The FAA, however, claims that, "There are absolutely no imminent safety issues raised by the report."

If this is true, then I guess the DOT Inspector General is overly worried, correct?

The report made me curious about software-related supply chain issues, but the audit wasn't very forthcoming in this regard. It said that, "In conducting these audits, FAA inspectors review the suppliersâ'' organizational management structure, procedures for product design control, software quality assurance, manufacturing processes, manufacturing controls (including calibration), and supplier control (how well the suppliers oversee the vendors that supply parts to them)."

No other mention of software is in the report, like, how good these software quality assurance processes are.

For those of you in the business who know - a question. How much, if any, is legacy commercial aircraft system software outsourced to and maintained by third-party suppliers? And if it is, are the risks the same, less or more than what is being found with aircraft parts maintenance that is outsourced?


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Robert Charette
Spotsylvania, Va.
Willie D. Jones
New York City