Management Limitations May Hinder FAA’s Ability To Fully Implement and Assess the Effectiveness of Its Runway Safety Initiatives
Runway safety is a critical concern for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) due to the risks associated with operating aircraft, ground vehicles, and pedestrians in a confined space at considerably different speeds. Although the U.S. commercial aviation industry is experiencing one of the safest periods in its history, several high-profile runway safety incidents—known as runway incursions—have occurred. The Ranking Member of the House Subcommittee on Aviation requested that we examine FAA’s Runway Safety Program and actions underway to improve safety.
FAA has implemented 8 of the 11 initiatives in its 2007 Call to Action Plan for Runway Safety, as well as several other national-level initiatives. However, FAA began reorganizing the Runway Safety Group in 2011, and nearly 3 years later it remains in flux. FAA also lacks a baseline for measuring its progress in improving runway safety. In 2012, FAA revised the reporting process for runway incursions, which FAA indicates has increased the reporting of such events. However, the lack of metrics makes it uncertain if this represents an increase in the number of actual events.
To reverse the trend of the recent rise in runway incursions, we made five recommendations aimed at improving the effectiveness of FAA’s Runway Safety Program. FAA declined to provide detailed comments on our recommendations until after the report is issued.