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GAO discussed the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) management and oversight of its inspection program. GAO noted that: (1) since FAA has not sufficiently addressed previously reported problems with its inspection program, it cannot ensure that airlines comply with federal safety regulations; (2) the FAA management database for inspections, the Program Tracking and Reporting Subsystem (PTRS), contains inaccurate and incomplete data because inspectors do not input inspection results, field offices lack adequate computer support, and inspectors have not received adequate guidance or been sufficiently trained in data input; (3) FAA has not analyzed PTRS inspection data to assess whether it is achieving program priorities; (4) since FAA inspectors generally do not evaluate the severity of discovered problems, they do not know how to direct its limited resources to those areas that warrant immediate attention; (5) FAA does not know whether inspectors follow up on identified problems; (6) FAA has not developed a system to target inspections on the basis of safety risk; and (7) FAA must take actions to correct fundamental flaws in its inspection program before it is overtaken by such new challenges as aging aircraft, airline industry restructuring and globalization, oversight of foreign air carriers, and the development of inspector skills to deal with new technology.

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