Improved Controls Needed Over Private Pilot Licensing

RED-76-65: Published: Feb 26, 1976. Publicly Released: Feb 26, 1976.

Additional Materials:


Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800

The National Transportation Safety Board, reporting on general aviation accidents from 1966 to 1974, cited pilot error as the causal factor in over 80 percent of the cases investigated. The Federal Aviation Administration is responsible for initial licensing of private pilots, who must pass medical and written examinations, receive formal training under supervision of an FAA licensed instructor, and pass a flight-test by an FAA designated pilot examiner. Beginning in November 1974 a biennial flight review was required of all active pilots to demonstrate continued competency.

The FAA does not have an effective system for determining whether the tests and reviews conducted by these examiners and instructors comply with FAA standards. Many examiners indicated that their flight-tests did not comply with the flight-test guide used. Guidance on the conduct of flight reviews has been inadequate, and those conducting the reviews have widely varying opinions on what procedures, maneuvers, and other matters should be reviewed. The FAA does not monitor flight reviews or know which pilots have taken the required review; and it is not making an appreciable effort to enforce the requirement.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: To improve controls over flight tests and biennial flight reviews, FAA should: clarify flight review standards and obtain information on who has completed the reviews so that the requirement can be better met; obtain information on the content of the flight-tests and reviews, as well as examiners' and instructors' appraisals of pilots' performances, and use this information as a basis for evaluating test quality.

    Agency Affected:


Explore the full database of GAO's Open Recommendations »