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Letter to Ranking Member Costello Regarding FAA's Oversight of On-Demand Aircraft Operators

On March 21, 2011, we issued a letter to Representative Jerry F. Costello, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure's Subcommittee on Aviation, to convey the results of our review regarding challenges in the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA's) oversight of on-demand aircraft operators.  We conducted this review to follow up on our July 2009 report that evaluated the differences between FAA regulations and oversight for on-demand operators and larger, commercial air carriers.  Our report recommended actions for FAA to revise outdated safety regulations and improve its risk assessment processes.  We also testified before that subcommittee in March 2010 on aspects of the industry where FAA should focus its oversight efforts. 

Since then, FAA has made notable progress in addressing our recommendations.  Specifically, FAA has developed risk-based tools to target safety issues inherent to on-demand operations and improved surveillance resources for FAA inspectors.  The FAA also is updating the regulatory structure for on-demand operators to address risks within Helicopter Emergency Medical Services operations and reduce human error in the cockpit through required crew resource management training.  We commend FAA for these safety advancements but note that it also should focus on a number of National Transportation Safety Board recommendations aimed at closing regulatory and oversight gaps in areas such as air tours and illegal operators.