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FAA’s Progress and Challenges in Advancing Safety Oversight Initiatives

Requested by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation

On April 16, 2013, the Assistant Inspector General for Aviation and Special Programs testified before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation regarding the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) progress and challenges in implementing safety oversight initiatives. The Assistant Inspector General focused on FAA’s (1) need for comprehensive data collection and analysis to enhance the safety of air traffic operations; (2) need to strengthen its risk-based oversight approach for repair stations and manufacturers; and (3) progress and challenges with implementing mandated safety requirements. Specifically, the Assistant Inspector General noted that, to reduce the risk of safety incidents such as air traffic controller operational errors, pilot deviations, wildlife strikes, and runway incursions, FAA needs to refine its processes for collecting data and analyzing root causes. In addition, the Assistant Inspector General described FAA’s challenges with establishing a risk-based oversight system for repair stations and aircraft manufacturers, as well as effectively determining how many inspectors it needs and where. Finally, the Assistant Inspector General noted that despite commendable progress on implementing key elements of the Airline Safety Act, FAA continues to be challenged with meeting provisions for improved pilot training, qualification, and screening requirements, as well as advancing safety initiatives at smaller carriers.