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On June 4, 2007, about 1600 central daylight time, a Cessna Citation 550, N550BP, impacted Lake Michigan shortly after departure from General Mitchell International Airport, Milwaukee, Wisconsin (MKE).1 The two pilots and four passengers were killed, and the airplane was destroyed. The airplane was being operated by Marlin Air under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 135 and departed MKE about 1557 with an intended destination of Willow Run Airport (YIP), near Ypsilanti, Michigan. At the time of the accident flight, marginal visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the surface, and instrument meteorological conditions prevailed aloft; the flight operated on an instrument flight rules flight plan.
TO THE FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION: Revise check airman approval and oversight procedures to incorporate heightened surveillance during a probationary period and at other times, as warranted, for check airmen whose background evaluation uncovers a history of criminal convictions, certificate revocations, checkride failures, or other performance-related deficiencies.
Original recommendation transmittal letter:
Closed - Unacceptable Action
Milwaukee, WI, United States
Loss of Control and Impact with Water, Marlin Air Cessna Citation 550, N550BP
Addressee(s) and Addressee Status:
FAA (Closed - Unacceptable Action)
Oversight, Training and Education
Safety Recommendation History
The FAA reviewed the process for check airman approval and designation, including the requirements for continued oversight, contained in FAA Order 8900.1, “Flight Standards Information Management System,” volume 3, chapter 20, paragraph 3-1390. Based upon this review, the FAA believes that the current training, approval, and oversight procedures are appropriate for principal operations inspectors (POI) to use when a check airman background evaluation uncovers a history of criminal convictions, certificate revocations, checkride failures, other performance-related deficiencies, or at any time that questionable information may be uncovered about a check airman. The FAA also indicated that the guidance contained in paragraph 3-1390 states that, once approved, a check airman’s manner and professional reputation should always reflect positively upon the employer and the FAA, and that a check airman’s approval may be given, limited, withdrawn, or terminated at the discretion of the POI. The FAA believes that, in effect, a check airman is always on probation, and is therefore always subject to the equivalent of a strictly defined probationary period. The FAA does not plan to take any further action in response to this recommendation. In our report on the Marlin Air accident in Milwaukee, we reviewed the same procedures and guidance specified in FAA Order 8900.1. However, when Marlin Air nominated the accident captain for check airman appointment, the POI reviewed the nomination letter and verified the captain’s pilot and medical certificate qualifications as required by FAA procedures. The captain was eligible under federal regulations to serve as the company’s chief pilot and as an FAA-designated check airman, and the POI approved the designation. The POI stated that, during his review process, he noticed that the captain had previously had his pilot certificates revoked because of a drug violation; however, the POI did not seek further information regarding the nature or circumstances of the revocation assuming, incorrectly, that the revocation was related to a personal issue involving prescription medications. The POI further stated that he did not believe it would be necessary for him to pursue the issue because the FAA had reviewed the situation and reissued the captain’s pilot certificates. FAA guidance regarding appointment of check airmen does not specifically address what steps POIs should take when a background evaluation discloses negative information. This lack of guidance can result in the appointment of check airmen who do not adhere to standards, may jeopardize flight safety, and generally do not represent the FAA well. In the accident case, it resulted in the accident captain (who routinely failed to comply with procedures and regulations) being appointed to the position of check airman. We issued this recommendation based on our conclusion that FAA guidance regarding check airman appointments and specified oversight procedures for POIs to follow (such as heightened surveillance) in cases in which the review of a pilot’s background or performance revealed negative information, checkride failures, or other performance related deficiencies, did not prevent an inadequate or undisciplined pilot from being appointed or retained as check airman. Consequently, although the procedures in FAA Order 8900.1 allow a POI to remove a check airman who has problems, these procedures do not provide sufficient guidance about when further investigation is necessary (as with the accident pilot whose certificates had been revoked because of a drug violation). Although we do not agree with the FAA that the current guidance provided in FAA Order 8900.1 is sufficient, the FAA does not plan to take the recommended action. Consequently, Safety Recommendation A-09-124 is classified CLOSED—UNACCEPTABLE ACTION.
-From Michael P. Huerta, Acting Administrator: As we indicated in our April 28, 20 10, letter to the Board, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has reviewed the process for check airman approval and designation, including the requirements for continued oversight, to determine whether policy modification is required. This is contained in FAA Order 8900.1, the Flight Standards Information Management System (FSIMS). Specifically, volume 1, chapter 20, addresses check airman, instructor, and supervisor programs for part 121 and 135 certificate holders. Paragraph 3- 1390 of this chapter clearly states that "a check airman's manner and professional reputation should always reflect positively upon the employer and the FAA." Furthermore, "a check airman's approval may be given, limited, or withdrawn in the discretion of the principal operations inspector (POI)." If the POI uncovers any negative background information about a check airman, the POI can remove the check airman at anytime. The FAA relies on the professional judgment of the POI to make these decisions. Based upon this review, we determined that the current training, approval, and oversight procedures are appropriate guidance for POIs to use when a check airman background evaluation uncovers a hi story of criminal convict ions, certificate revocation s, checkride failures, other performance-related deficiencies, or at any time that questionable information may be uncovered about a check airman. The FSIMS can be found at the following link: http://fsims. faa.gov/Home.aspx. This order also speaks to a probationary period for check airman. As indicated above, paragraph 3- 1390 states that once approved, a check airman's manner and professional reputation should always reflect positively upon the employer and the FAA, and that a check airman 's approval may be given, limited, withdrawn, or terminated at the discretion of the POI. We believe that in effect, a check airman is always on probation, and the FAA considers that an option equivalent to a strictly defined probationary period. Additional guidance in this area is provided to POIs in the FSIMS, volume 3, chapter 20, section 2, “Check Airman Approval and Surveillance," and is accessible at the link above. I believe the FAA has effectively addressed this safety recommendation, and I consider our actions complete.
The FAA's planned review of its process for check airman approval and continued oversight is a first step in responding to this recommendation. Pending completion of the recommended action, Safety Recommendation A-09-124 is classified OPEN – ACCEPTABLE RESPONSE.
Letter Mail Controlled 5/5/2010 12:17:19 PM MC# 2100167 - From J. Randolph Babbitt, Administrator: The FAA concurs with the Board and will review its process for check airman approval and continued oversight to determine whether policy modification is required. I will provide an update on the progress of this safety recommendation by March 2011.
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