After a year-long investigation, two Boston Globe reporters found that a lax Federal Aviation Administration [FAA] system of registering airplanes and pilot’s licenses is being exploited by drug runners– and even terrorists.
“People can use layers of secrecy to register their aircraft,” Spotlight investigative reporter Jaimi Dowdell told CBS on Monday. All you need is a bill of sale and a $5 bill– a system far less secure than applying for a driver’s license, which requires multiple forms of ID.
“The FAA doesn’t see itself as an active policeman of the registry,” said Spotlight co-reporter Kelly Carr. “They don’t vet the information. So they’re really working on the honor system” to tell the truth about their citizenship and residency in the U.S.
“They can lie, and the FAA says that they’re not checking.”
FAA acknowledges it does not vet or track registration, and says it lacks the resources to check the accuracy of its records.
The Spotlight investigation found that two of the planes used in the 9/11 attacks were listed by the FAA as active until 2005; another plane’s registration was active for 57 years after it was destroyed in a crash. Carr and Dowdell also found 5 people with suspected ties to terrorism– one currently serving time for attempting to aid ISIS– all holding active licenses, according to the FAA database.
“If those aren’t being caught, imagine what else is slipping through the cracks?” said Carr.
Sixteen years after the 9/11 terror attacks, “the FAA still operates more like a file clerk than a reliable tool for law enforcement, enabling secrecy in the skies here and abroad,” concludes the Spotlight story.
An investigation by The Crime Report published last week revealed the FAA had failed to thoroughly address a whistleblower’s report of defective airline parts manufactured in China for U.S. aircraft.
The whistleblower case, reported by TCR Deputy Editor Victoria Mckenzie, underlined additional concerns by aviation specialists and former FAA inspectors about FAA oversight. They charged that the FAA has shunted the job of policing the emerging global trade in counterfeit airplane parts to the commercial airline industry.