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The Federal Aviation Administration's Role in Safety Oversight of Air Carriers

On June 10, 2009, the Inspector General testified before the Senate Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety, and Security regarding the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) role in the oversight of air carriers. The Inspector General noted that while FAA has made progress toward improving aspects of its safety oversight, there are still vulnerabilities that must be addressed, especially in five critical areas: risk–based inspections, repair stations, aging aircraft, disclosures of safety violations made through the Aviation Safety Action Program, and internal reviews of whistleblower complaints. The Inspector General also noted operational differences between regional and mainline carriers that could impact safety and discussed his office’s recently initiated review in this area. This review was requested by the Subcommittee as a result of a National Transportation Safety Board hearing last month that highlighted pilot training and fatigue issues following the crash of Colgan flight 3407. The Office of Inspector General’s review will focus on (1) aspects of pilot training, such as FAA’s standards for and oversight of certification of commercial pilot training, (2) FAA regulations and airline policies regarding crew rest requirements, and (3) possible correlations between accidents and pilot experience and compensation.