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The Federal Aviation Administration’s Oversight of On-Demand Aircraft Operators

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On March 17, the Inspector General testified before the House Subcommittee on Aviation regarding the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) oversight of on-demand aircraft operators.  This operating environment carries a number of safety risks, such as short, frequent flights with more takeoffs and landings—the most dangerous part of flight.  Unlike large commercial carriers, on-demand flights often operate at altitudes that are vulnerable to terrain and weather hazards and utilize small airports without air traffic control towers or emergency equipment.  National Transportation Safety Board statistics show that higher risks have translated into more accidents for on-demand operators. However, FAA’s oversight of this industry is primarily based on compliance with outdated regulations that are less rigorous than those for large commercial carriers in key areas, such as flight crew training requirements and aircraft maintenance inspections. The Office of Inspector General's review, requested by the Subcommittee, found that a targeted, risk-based oversight approach could help mitigate many safety issues associated with on-demand operations.  To shift to a risk-based oversight model, FAA will need to overcome several challenges, including ensuring it has enough inspectors with the right skills and sufficient data to oversee this diverse industry.