Safety Standards on Small Passenger Aircraft--With Nine or Fewer Seats--Are Significantly Less Stringent Than on Larger Aircraft

RCED-84-2: Published: Jan 4, 1984. Publicly Released: Jan 4, 1984.

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GAO reported on how current federal airworthiness standards and operating rules influence the safety of small aircraft.

The Airline Deregulation Act provides that, to the maximum extent feasible, air carrier passengers are to receive the same level of safety regardless of the size of the air carrier. However, GAO found that passengers flying on small aircraft are not provided with the same level of safety as passengers flying on larger aircraft. Both the airworthiness standards and the operating rules which the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has established for small aircraft are significantly less stringent than those it has established for larger aircraft. Since the late 1960's, FAA has studied, proposed, or made numerous changes to the airworthiness standards and operating rules. GAO found that these studies and changes either excluded or were not considered mandatory for aircraft with fewer than 10 seats because of the economic impact which such standards would have on the small aircraft industry. Some changes could be made at acceptable costs with substantial safety benefits to be gained; however, FAA has not prepared any cost/benefit analysis with regard to modifying the safety standards which apply to small aircraft.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: FAA completed its study and identified rules and standards that are different for large and small air carrier aircraft.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator, FAA, to identify those standards and rules governing small air carrier aircraft (nine or fewer seats) that are significantly less stringent than those applicable to larger air carrier aircraft.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The agency has determined that no significant safety benefits would result from upgrading small air carrier aircraft standards and rules. Thus, there is no need to prepare cost/benefit estimates of alternatives.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, FAA, should seek the cooperation and assistance of aircraft manufacturers and air carrier operators in preparing the cost/benefit estimates.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation: Federal Aviation Administration

  3. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The agency has determined that no significant safety benefits would result from upgrading small air carrier aircraft standards and rules. Thus, there is no need to prepare cost/benefit estimates of alternatives.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator, FAA, to prepare detailed cost/benefit estimates of the possible alternatives to upgrade those standards and rules that are less stringent.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  4. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The agency has determined that no significant safety benefits would result from upgrading small air carrier aircraft standards and rules. Thus, there is no need to prepare cost/benefit estimates of alternatives.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator, FAA, to implement those alternatives that are determined to be technologically feasible and cost beneficial.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

 

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