Audit Reports

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FAA Lacks Sufficient Oversight of the Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting Program

Self-Initiated
Project ID: 
AV2016067

In July 2013, Asiana Flight 214 crashed on final approach into San Francisco International Airport, resulting in three fatalities and drawing attention to the importance of emergency response at our Nation’s airports. In its report on the accident, the National Transportation Safety Board highlighted safety issues related to the training and staffing of aircraft rescue and firefighting (ARFF) personnel and FAA’s oversight of emergency response services. As a result, we initiated an audit to assess FAA’s oversight of its ARFF program.

While FAA has provided approximately $750 million since 2004 to fund ARFF buildings, facilities, vehicles, and equipment, our audit identified several challenges related to the Agency’s oversight and enforcement in this area. For example, FAA inspectors did not consistently review airports’ compliance with ARFF regulations and policy. FAA has also not sufficiently investigated potentially serious violations of ARFF requirements or reported enforcement data to its own database, as required by FAA policy, in part there is no guidance that clearly delineates when a violation should be investigated. In addition, the Agency either lacks policies regarding key components of the ARFF program—e.g., the review of vehicle maintenance records—or the policies are not robust enough to make them effective. In one case, FAA issued guidance to airports that conflicted with FAA regulations. Finally, FAA’s policies and guidance on ARFF training are voluntary and do not establish required standards for content, length, and methods of teaching.

We made 10 recommendations to help FAA improve its oversight and enforcement of emergency response services at the Nation’s airports. FAA concurred with eight of our recommendations and partially concurred with two recommendations. We consider nine of these recommendations resolved but open pending completion of the planned actions. We are requesting additional documentation for one recommendation and a revised response for one recommendation.

Recommendations

Open

Closed

Closed on 02.08.2017
No. 1 to FAA

Establish minimum requirements for inspectors' review of airports' compliance with Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting regulations.

Closed on 03.30.2017
No. 2 to FAA

Update the inspection checklist for Airport Certification Inspections to include these requirements: a. determining whether airports have conducted tests of fire-extinguishing agents; b. reviewing vehicle maintenance records; c. reviewing training materials; and d. reviewing the type of foam airports use to ensure airports meet Federal requirements.

Closed on 01.30.2018
No. 3 to FAA

Document what items were reviewed to determine airport compliance under the Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting requirements in the inspection checklist for Airport Certification Inspections to include: a. which vehicles were reviewed to determine compliance with each regulation, such as which vehicles were inspected for their ability to discharge agent and execute the response time tests; b. which personnel protective equipment were inspected; and c. dates of the full scale triennial emergency exercise and annual review of the Airport Emergency Plan.

Closed on 02.13.2017
No. 4 to FAA

Provide training to inspectors on the updated inspection checklist for Airport Certification Inspections.

Closed on 01.30.2018
No. 5 to FAA

Implement the requirement under FAA's Compliance and Enforcement Policy for FAA Headquarters to review regional inspection program activities of the Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting program on a 3-year cycle.

Closed on 12.15.2016
No. 6 to FAA

Issue guidance to airport inspectors clarifying when inspectors should: (1) issue a formal Letter of Investigation and (2) investigate serious discrepancies to determine and document the cause of these discrepancies.

Closed on 03.30.2017
No. 7 to FAA

Require FAA to periodically analyze Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting enforcement data nationwide to identify airports with serious Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting violations and verify they are corrected to prevent future discrepancies with the regulations. Document analysis and steps to ensure violations are corrected.

No. 8 to FAA

Develop a process to ensure the Office of Airports reports its Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting enforcement actions to FAA's Enforcement Information System database according to FAA Order 2150.3B.

No. 9 to FAA

Require inspectors to review airports' training materials and other documentation that shows the items taught during each of its training classes used for Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting personnel in each of the Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting areas required under 14 CFR Part 139 to ensure airports train personnel in a manner authorized by FAA.

No. 10 to FAA

Identify and implement best practices regarding the content, length, and methods of teaching each of the 11 Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting subject areas.