One key way that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) makes air travel safer is to inspect the manufacture, operation, and maintenance of aircraft that fly in the United States. To better direct its resources, FAA is shifting from an inspection process that relied on spot-checks of compliance with regulations to one that evaluates operating procedures and analyzes inspection data to identify areas that pose the most risk to safety (called system safety). While FAA believes the new approach requires some technical knowledge of aircraft, Congress and GAO have long-standing concerns over whether FAA inspectors have enough technical knowledge to effectively identify risks. GAO reviewed the extent that FAA follows effective management practices in ensuring that inspectors receive up-to-date technical training. In addition, GAO is reporting on technical training that the aviation industry provides to FAA.
Recommendations for Executive Action
|Department of Transportation||1. Regarding technical training, the Secretary of Transportation should direct the FAA Administrator, to ensure that inspector technical training needs are identified and met in a timely manner, to systematically assess inspectors' technical training needs, increase inspector involvement in the decision-making process for assessing the need for courses, including the need for more training for maintenance and avionics inspectors to familiarize them with recent changes in aviation technology, and ensure the technical curriculum meets those needs. The Administrator should also take the actions needed, including developing guidelines for inspectors, supervisors, and training managers, to ensure that technical training is requested and delivered closer to the time it is needed to help inspectors perform their jobs.|
|Department of Transportation||2. Regarding technical training, the Secretary of Transportation should direct the FAA Administrator, with a view toward maximizing the contributions of training to furthering FAA's safety mission, to determine the feasibility of developing measures of the impact of inspector training, including technical training, on achieving organizational goals.|
|Department of Transportation||3. To gain better acceptance from the inspector workforce for changes being made and planned for the inspector training curriculum, the Secretary of Transportation should direct the FAA Administrator to increase the focus of its training efforts on how system safety/risk management will improve inspections and aviation safety.|
|Department of Transportation||4. The Secretary of Transportation should direct the FAA Administrator to ensure that all existing and future memoranda of understanding pertaining to training received in exchange for in-kind services contain language stating that the agreement does not preclude FAA from fulfilling its oversight and enforcement role.|
|Department of Transportation||5. To preclude situations where the provision of free training by the aviation industry may create a conflict of interest or result in the appearance of such a conflict, the Secretary of Transportation should direct the FAA Administrator to review its policies on the acceptance of free training accepted from the aviation industry to ensure they are understood by inspectors, supervisors, managers, and regional counsel; implement a process for monitoring field office compliance with these policies; and follow up on any noncompliance.|