Skip to Highlights

GAO discussed on: (1) current conditions within the air traffic control (ATC) work force; (2) variations in the type and frequency of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspections of air carriers; and (3) FAA progress in developing a terminal doppler weather radar system to detect low level wind shears. GAO noted that: (1) FAA controller staffing fell by 75 percent after the 1981 controllers' strike; (2) barely half were able to remain and succeed; (3) many experienced controllers and supervisors will be eligible for retirement in 2 years; and (4) a majority of controllers believed that the heavy work load was adversely affecting system safety. GAO found that: (1) the skill level of developmental controllers was having a negative impact on safety; (2) increasing the number of controllers was only a partial remedy to current conditions; (3) FAA regions do not interpret or apply FAA regulations and policies uniformly; (4) some air carriers had no avionics or operations inspections; and (5) FAA has begun to correct staffing deficiencies and implement guidelines which specify the minimum number of inspections. GAO also found that: (1) controllers often decline to provide pilots with weather advisories while working peak traffic periods; (2) technical solutions to the terminal doppler radar system have not been devised; (3) FAA plans to expedite doppler radar procurement did not include operational testing and evaluation of initial production units; (4) doppler radar costs should be reexamined; and (5) FAA needs to provide pilots with training to avoid and escape wind shear.

Full Report