Aviation Safety:

Emergency Revocation Orders of Air Carrier Certificates

RCED-92-10: Published: Oct 17, 1991. Publicly Released: Nov 20, 1991.

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Kenneth M. Mead
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on: (1) the profiles of air carriers subject to emergency revocation orders and the most common violations that led to revocations; (2) Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspection and enforcement history of the air carriers before the emergency revocation orders were issued; and (3) the extent to which key airline owners and managers returned to similar positions in the aviation industry after committing safety violations that led to emergency revocation orders.

GAO found that: (1) between January 1987 and May 1991, FAA issued emergency orders revoking 52 commuters airlines' or air taxis' operating certificates; (2) of the 52 carriers, 67 percent operated 8 or fewer aircraft and a few carriers had fleets of 25 or more; (3) most of the carriers had been in operation for several years; (4) air taxis accounted for 73 percent of the emergency revocation orders; (5) the most frequent violations included operating an aircraft in violation of the air carrier's operating certificate, operating unairworthy aircraft, and falsifying compliance records; (6) in over 50 percent of the emergency revocation orders, FAA became aware of the violations as a result of tips from employees, competitors, or consumers, or from investigations initiated because of accidents; (7) FAA inspectors recorded the majority of inspections as satisfactory prior to issuing the emergency revocation orders and became aware of safety violations for 11 carriers only after they had been occurring for a year or more; (8) 16 carriers had previous enforcement actions taken against them for violations similar to those cited in the emergency revocation order and 13 other carriers had previous enforcement actions taken against them for violations different than those cited in the emergency revocation order; (9) FAA did not have a system to track individuals who were key managers or owners of carriers that were subject to emergency revocation orders, but planned to issue guidance to inspectors on using an existing computer database to track such managers when they apply for an air carrier operating certificate; and (10) 9 key owners or managers involved with 9 of the 52 emergency revocation cases returned to or remained in a similar position with an air carrier.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In October 1992, FAA implemented an automated system to identify key airline managers and owners that contributed to air carrier certificate revocations.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator, FAA, to develop a formal system to identify and track individuals within or returning to the airline industry who contributed materially to emergency revocations. The Administrator should give priority attention to developing a plan for this system and milestones for its implementation.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation


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