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Highlights

Airline travel is one of the safest modes of public transportation in the United States. Furthermore, there are survivors in the majority of airliner crashes, according to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). Additionally, more passengers might have survived if they had been better protected from the impact of the crash, smoke, or fire or better able to evacuate the airliner. As requested, GAO addressed (1) the regulatory actions that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has taken and the technological and operational improvements, called advancements, that are available or are being developed to address common safety and health issues in large commercial airliner cabins and (2) the barriers, if any, that the United States faces in implementing such advancements.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Transportation To provide FAA decision makers with additional data for use in setting priorities for research on cabin occupant safety and health and in selecting competing research projects for funding, the Secretary of Transportation should direct the FAA Administrator to initiate discussions with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) in an effort to obtain the autopsy and survivor information needed to more fully understand the factors affecting survival in a commercial airliner crash.
Closed - Implemented

Recommendation status is Closed - Implemented.

As recommended in GAO's report, FAA's Civil Aerospace Medical Institute (CAMI) personnel met with NTSB staff to discuss the availability of aircraft accident injury information. According to FAA, both parties agreed that although the information was not available on the NTSB website, detailed injury information, assigned seats, and occupant interviews were available. NTSB staff offered to send copies of the Survival Factors Reports, including the injury chart and all other attachments to CAMI. NTSB staff also offered to facilitate CAMI visits to NTSB headquarters to review supporting documentation.
Department of Transportation To provide FAA decision makers with additional data for use in setting priorities for research on cabin occupant safety and health and in selecting competing research projects for funding, the Secretary of Transportation should direct the FAA Administrator to supplement its current process by developing and using comparable estimates of cost and effectiveness for each cabin occupant safety and health advancement under consideration for research funding.
Closed - Implemented

Recommendation status is Closed - Implemented.

FAA generally agreed with the recommendation to supplement its current process by using comparable cost and effectiveness estimates to help select aviation health and safety research. In October 2005, FAA informed us that estimates of cost and effectiveness are now incorporated in the prioritization process. The Office of Aerospace Medicine, Aerospace Medical Technical Community Representative Group reviews and prioritizes all aerospace medical research requirements/initiatives including those involving cabin occupant health advancements.

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