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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the Department of Transportation's (DOT) licensing and the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) implementation of a program which examines foreign civil aviation authorities' compliance with international safety standards, focusing on FAA: (1) assessments of foreign countries' compliance with international standards; (2) oversight of foreign carriers that fail to meet international standards; and (3) actions taken in response to safety concerns with foreign carriers.

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Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Transportation The Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator, FAA, to require its field offices to perform comprehensive inspections of foreign air carriers that fly into the United States when FAA: (1) finds that their home governments do not comply with international standards; and/or (2) becomes aware that the carrier has serious safety problems. These inspections should continue until FAA determines that the home government meets international standards and that the carrier is operating safely. FAA should also specify the nature, frequency, and timing of these inspections.
Closed - Implemented
FAA addressed this recommendation with the implementation of a quarterly special-emphasis list that identifies foreign air carriers for an increased number of inspections. Each foreign carrier with scheduled flights to the United States is to receive one ramp inspection per year. However, if a foreign carrier appears on the quarterly special-emphasis list, FAA recommends that inspectors conduct an additional ramp inspection monthly. Beginning in fiscal year 1997, FAA plans to further increase surveillance by requiring two ramp inspections on each foreign carrier. FAA has also expanded the comprehensiveness of its inspections of foreign carriers.
Department of Transportation The Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator, FAA, to give priority to assessing the oversight capabilities of those countries that FAA determines have one or more carriers with serious safety problems and work with the countries to ensure that their oversight capabilities are sound.
Closed - Implemented
FAA stated that it will continue to schedule assessments based on FAA's knowledge of the efficiency of other civil aviation agencies' safety oversight systems. Accordingly, FAA believes its actions fulfill the intent of the recommendation and it will continue to manage its program in this manner. However, FAA continues to base its country assessments on new applicants while GAO believes the results of inspections should also form the basis for determining country assessments. It is unclear from FAA's action that inspection data will be used for rearranging priorities for country assessments.
Department of Transportation The Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator, FAA, to promptly notify all relevant field offices of serious safety concerns about foreign carriers.
Closed - Implemented
FAA developed and is using its quarterly special-emphasis list to notify inspectors and field offices when increased emphasis on certain foreign carriers is warranted. FAA is also electronically notifying its inspectors and field offices of serious safety problems with foreign carriers in between the issuance of the quarterly listings.

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