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Key Safety and Modernization Challenges Facing the FAA

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On April 17, 2008, the Inspector General testified before the Senate Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies. The testimony focused on the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) key safety and modernization challenges.

FAA must operate and maintain an increasingly strained system while transitioning to the next generation of air traffic control and addressing attrition in critical workforces. The recent events involving Southwest Airlines and grounded flights by multiple carriers have raised concerns about FAA’s overall approach to safety oversight. There is an urgent need to identify the root causes of safety problems and proactively examine how to maintain and ultimately enhance the margin of safety.

The Inspector General highlighted three key challenges facing FAA and its stakeholders over the next several years: (1) strengthening FAA’s oversight of the aviation industry, including its systems for monitoring air carriers’ use of outsourced maintenance and aircraft manufacturers’ suppliers; (2) keeping existing modernization programs on track, reducing risk with NextGen, and setting realistic expectations; and (3) addressing attrition within FAA’s air traffic controller and inspector workforces.