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