Friday, January 23, 2015

Planes at New York City-area airports go unchecked after Federal Aviation Administration safety changes

NEW YORK (WABC) -- The FAA is now requiring new safety screenings of inspectors before they get to check planes after a string of security breaches, but Eyewitness News has learned that alternate plans have not been put into effect at local airports.

Nearly 100 inspectors who check to make sure planes are safe to fly were essentially grounded because of a growing concern about the employee breaches and a lack of coordination between the FAA and the Port Authority.

To give you some idea how important the FAA inspectors are to safety, we've learned that just last week, a plane was grounded here when an inspector found a serious mechanical problem.

Most airports found way to continue inspections, but not at the three New York-area airports, where planes have not been checked for more than three days for reasons FAA and Port Authority have yet to explain. 

Since the suspension of the security badges earlier this week, inspectors have, for the most part, been sitting in an office on Long Island. Without the use of their badges, they can only access restricted areas if they are escorted by the Port Authority.

But those escorts, for unknown reasons, have not been happening. And that means planes at JFK, LaGuardia and Newark have gone uninspected by the FAA, something that New York's senior senator finds unacceptable.

"It's absurd that an organization like the FAA and Port Authority can't come up with a system so our planes can be inspected," Sen. Charles Schumer said.

The problem started Wednesday when the FAA banned the use of security badges nationwide following several breeches in which insiders at Atlanta's airport smuggled firearms into LaGuardia.

That prompted the blanket ban on badges, which triggered a letter from the president of the Safety Inspector's Union, who wrote to the head of the FAA to say, "Inspections are not being fully conducted at some major airports, including those in New York." 

He urges the FAA to find a way to ensure security so that "it does not impact an entire workforce attempting to carry out their duties." 

Most other airports have figured a way to assist the inspectors, but not here, where for reasons neither the FAA nor the Port Authority could explain to us, most planes have not been checked by government inspectors since. 

"God forbid there's an accident because a plane wasn't inspected safely," Schumer said. "They ought to get right on it and fix this problem."

The Port Authority responded by saying they will escort FAA inspectors onto the ramp as needed, adding that they have not heard of any problems. Both the Port Authority and the FAA have refused to tell us how many inspectors were escorted to do their inspections Friday.

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