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Management Limitations May Hinder FAA’s Ability To Fully Implement and Assess the Effectiveness of Its Runway Safety Initiatives

Requested by the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Subcommittee on Aviation
Project ID: 

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.




Closed on 07.14.2016
No. 1 to FAA

Realign the Runway Safety Group outside of FAA's operational lines of business to ensure the office effectively provides oversight and coordinates activities for investigating and mitigating runway incursions.

Closed on 12.02.2014
No. 2 to FAA

Develop a strategy and timeline to hire a permanent director for the Runway Safety Group

Closed on 10.14.2014
No. 3 to FAA

Provide written guidance to regional Runway Safety Offices on how to conduct effective outreach in a resource-constrained environment.

Closed on 12.02.2014
No. 4 to FAA

Update the National Runway Safety Plan and identify all national runway safety-related initiatives, establishing specific and measurable milestones for each initiative.

Closed on 10.28.2016
No. 5 to FAA

Expedite the development of metrics to determine whether runway incursions are actually increasing and to assess the effectiveness of implemented runway safety initiatives.