S. 2417 and the Status of FAA's Controller and Inspector Work Forces

Published: Jul 17, 1986. Publicly Released: Jul 17, 1986.

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GAO discussed the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) methods of efficiently and effectively promoting, maintaining, and enhancing aviation safety in a competitive, deregulated airline industry. Although FAA had planned to increase its controller force, confusion over how many controllers FAA had, how many it needed, and how many it was hiring added to doubts that FAA was adequately carrying out its air traffic control mission. The overall attrition rate for controller trainees was about 60 percent, almost double the assumed failure rate. FAA was in the process of increasing its inspector work force and taking actions to respond to problems inherent in its inspection program, but it was not managerially prepared to absorb the increase. FAA had difficulty balancing its responsibilities of promoting commercial aviation and ensuring aviation safety because it did not respond effectively to industry deregulation changes. While air traffic has reached record levels, the controller work force has remained at about 2,000 positions less than at the time of the strike. In the absence of adequate guidance, managers assigned priority to certifying new and expanding airlines, rather than inspecting the compliance of existing airlines with safety regulations. Although FAA has improved its safety-related traffic control and inspection functions, its progress needs careful monitoring.