Perspectives on Maintaining Safety and Enhancing Oversight of a Diverse and Complex Aviation Industry
On February 27, 2018, the Assistant Inspector General for Aviation Audits testified before the House of Representatives on the challenges facing the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) safety oversight of the aviation industry. He focused on two areas: (1) addressing evolving and longstanding safety oversight challenges related to regional carriers, aircraft parts, and runway incursions and (2) integrating unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) into the National Airspace System.
The Assistant Inspector General testified that the regional air carrier industry, which serves more than 20 percent of all airline passengers, has experienced significant operational and financial changes that can impact safety in an industry that must keep costs low. These carriers must meet the same safety standards as mainline carriers, and several oversight adjustments are required for FAA to proactively mitigate risks. Additionally, FAA needs to strengthen its monitoring and investigation processes to prevent faulty or counterfeit parts from being installed on aircraft, and we are also currently assessing FAA's efforts to reduce runway incursions—incidents on runways involving unauthorized aircraft, vehicles, or people. FAA has launched various safety initiatives over the years to mitigate these incidents, but the number of reported incursions continues to rise. Finally, the use of UAS represents a significant safety concern for FAA, which must accommodate the expansion of commercial UAS operations as it strengthens its oversight and risk-mitigation efforts. As the aviation industry continues to evolve in these and other areas, FAA must be able to quickly adapt to any challenges to maintain the safety of the aviation system.