Skip to Highlights
Highlights

The safety of the flying public and the reliability of the nation's aircraft depend, in part, on the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) regulation and certification of the aviation industry. FAA delegates the vast majority of its safety certification activities to about 13,600 private persons and organizations, known as "designees," which are currently grouped into 18 different programs. Among other tasks, designees perform physical examinations to ensure that pilots are medically fit to fly and examine the airworthiness of aircraft. GAO reviewed (1) the strengths of FAA's designee programs, (2) the weaknesses of those programs and factors contributing to those weaknesses, and (3) potential improvements to the programs.

Skip to Recommendations

Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Transportation To improve management control of the designee programs, and thus increase assurance that designees meet FAA's performance standards, the Secretary of Transportation should direct the FAA Administrator to establish a program to evaluate all designee programs, placing a priority on those 12 programs that have not been evaluated. At a minimum, the evaluations should examine field office compliance with existing policies, identify root causes of noncompliance with those policies, and establish and monitor corrective action plans.
Closed - Implemented

Recommendation status is Closed - Implemented.

On March 17, 2006, FAA issued a revised order on designees (VS 1100.2) that requires each service and office to develop and administer an evaluation process for its delegation programs. As of Aug. 2006, the Aircraft Certification Office had completed evaluations of all its designee programs. At that time, Flight Standards had completed audits of 3 designee programs in one region and was using that experience to develop a prototype protocol to evaluate all its designee programs nationwide. Flight Standards has a schedule to complete the nationwide evaluations by the end of FY09. In addition, FAA has begun to survey newly certificated pilots about their training and certification to provide input on designee performance. As of September 2006, the office was in the process of developing a similar survey for newly certificated mechanics.
Department of Transportation To improve management control of the designee programs, and thus increase assurance that designees meet FAA's performance standards, the Secretary of Transportation should direct the FAA Administrator to develop mechanisms to improve the compliance of FAA program and field offices with existing policies concerning designee oversight. The mechanisms should include additional training for staff who directly oversee designees. As part of this effort, FAA should identify best oversight practices that can be shared by all FAA program and field offices and lessons learned from the program evaluations and incorporate, as appropriate, suggestions from our expert panel.
Closed - Implemented

Recommendation status is Closed - Implemented.

On March 17, 2006, FAA issued a revised order on designees (VS 1100.2) that established a Delegation Steering Group with representatives from each office with designee programs. The group had its first meetings in August 2006, and its function is to monitor compliance with the revised designee order, make recommendations to improve the designee programs, and to report to the Office of Aviation Safety management team at least annually. A revised designee management training course for FAA staff was scheduled for October 2006 and a second course by the end of FY 07. In addition, in 2006, FAA deployed an on-line questionnaire to FAA employees and designees to determine the health of the designee processes, with the goal of learning from the field perspective, what works well and what does not.
Department of Transportation To improve management control of the designee programs, and thus increase assurance that designees meet FAA's performance standards, the Secretary of Transportation should direct the FAA Administrator to enhance the effectiveness of FAA designee oversight tools, such as databases, by improving the consistency and completeness of information on designees' activities and performance and FAA oversight. To the extent necessary, FAA should examine charging fees to designees to help pay for the costs of such efforts. If FAA identifies a need for such fees, the agency should request the Congress to authorize them.
Closed - Implemented

Recommendation status is Closed - Implemented.

On March 17, 2006, FAA issued a revised order on designees (VS 1100.2) that established a Designee Integration User Group to develop a database to track consistent information (including designee performance information) across designee programs. The group completed the first phase of its efforts in September 2006, providing a training registration tool for designees, allowing FAA to keep track of required training. In addition, on October 1, 2006, FAA began charging all designees for the recurrent training provided by FAA.

Full Report