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Weak Processes Have Led to a Backlog of Flight Standards Certification Applications

Requested by Congressman Cory Gardner
Project ID: 

Each year, hundreds of commercial air carriers, aircraft repair stations, pilot schools, and other entities apply to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for certificates authorizing them to operate in the National Airspace System. At the request of Congressman Cory Gardner, we reviewed new certification applications at FAA’s Denver Flight Standards District Office (FSDO). We also examined whether similar issues existed at other FAA district offices and regions.

We found that the Denver FSDO and other FAA field offices face a significant backlog of aviation certification applications. At the time of our review, there were 42 applicants on the waiting list for certification at the Denver FSDO—one of the longest waitlists in the country. In addition, as of October 2013, there were more than 1,000 entities nationwide awaiting certification. Several factors have contributed to the Denver FSDO backlog, including an ineffective process for prioritizing and tracking new certificate applications, competing priorities, and constantly changing guidance from Headquarters. We also found some of these issues at other FAA field offices we reviewed.

We made four recommendations to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of FAA’s Flight Standards certification process. FAA concurred with all four recommendations, and we are requesting additional information for one recommendation.