Aviation Safety:

Changes Needed in FAA's Service Difficulty Reporting Program

RCED-91-24: Published: Mar 21, 1991. Publicly Released: Apr 5, 1991.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO evaluated the effectiveness of the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) Service Difficulty Reporting (SDR) program, focusing on: (1) the usefulness of SDR data to FAA and airline personnel; (2) factors affecting SDR usefulness; and (3) changes needed to improve the program.

GAO found that: (1) most users were dissatisfied with SDR and believed that it should not be continued unless FAA made major improvements; (2) airline reporting to the program varied significantly because of vague reporting requirements and concerns over public access to malfunction reports; (3) inadequate data, poor timeliness, and lack of analysis resulted in low-quality SDR data; (4) FAA management's inattention contributed to SDR ineffectiveness; (5) airlines and FAA relied on manufacturers' data for safety information; and (6) a reliable SDR program could assist FAA in effectively allocating its limited inspection resources, and help Department of Transportation (DOT) analysts in reviewing activities related to airline flight delays. GAO also found that changes for improving the effectiveness and utility of SDR included: (1) continued FAA management and improvement of SDR in the short term; and (2) such long-term proposals as development of a manufacturer-based, global reporting system or management of SDR by an independent entity.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee recommended and FAA decided to keep the SDR system within FAA. FAA has also changed the reporting procedures to improve the accuracy, consistency, and timeliness of the system.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator, FAA, to examine various alternatives for managing the SDR program and to select one that most effectively achieves the program's goals. In addition to the alternative of FAA continuing to manage the program, the Administrator should consider the feasibility of contracting with either the major engine and airframe manufacturers or a private, independent organization to manage the SDR program.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Administrator reported as recommended.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, FAA, should report on his decision regarding SDR management alternatives to the Chairman, Subcommittee on Aviation, Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, before the end of 1991.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation: Federal Aviation Administration


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