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The State of Aviation Safety and FAA’s Oversight of the National Airspace System

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On April 25, 2012, the Assistant Inspector General for Aviation and Special Programs testified before the House Aviation Subcommittee regarding the state of aviation safety and the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) oversight of the National Airspace System (NAS).  Specifically, the Assistant Inspector General focused on FAA’s:  (1) need for comprehensive data collection and analysis of operational errors and runway incursions; (2) need to strengthen and better use its risk-based oversight approach; and (3) progress and challenges with implementing mandated safety requirements.  FAA is taking important steps to improve safety, such as implementing voluntary safety reporting for controllers, but the Agency has not yet realized the full benefit of these efforts.  FAA will need to ensure that the data are accurate, comprehensive, and effectively analyzed to better identify baselines and safety trends.  FAA must also strengthen and better use its risk-based approach for oversight.  Finally, while FAA has made progress implementing important mandated safety provisions, the Agency has not implemented other requirements such as improved pilot training standards and a new pilot records database.  For FAA to realize the intended safety benefits of the changes it is implementing, the Agency must address the challenges it faces in gathering reliable safety data and using the data to enhance overall safety.