The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) seeks to make the U.S. aviation system one of the safest in the world. However, a 2005 Department of Transportation Inspector General investigation found that FAA had issued medical certificates to a small percentage of pilots with disqualifying medical conditions, such as heart conditions, schizophrenia, and drug or alcohol addiction. In response to your request, our report addresses the following questions: (1) what procedures does FAA use to certify that pilot applicants meet medical standards and (2) how does FAA determine that medical certificates have been properly issued? In addressing these objectives, GAO researched FAA guidance and federal regulations; interviewed federal officials; analyzed FAA's application review procedures, quality assurance program, and its use of the National Driver Register; and conducted a data match between FAA's pilot registry and Social Security Administration's disability programs. The data match does not determine if pilots receiving disability benefits have medical conditions that would disqualify them from holding an FAA medical certificate. GAO is not making recommendations in this report. The Department of Transportation generally agreed with our findings. FAA and the Social Security Administration provided technical clarifications, which we incorporated as appropriate.
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