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Highlights

GAO discussed the oversight of air taxis by the Office of the Secretary of Transportation (OST) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). GAO noted that: (1) FAA could not ascertain whether all air taxis operate safely and comply with regulations because it did not perform required inspections on all air taxis and routine FAA inspections had limited effectiveness in discovering safety violations; (2) air taxis must register with OST, but are exempt from OST certification and economic standards that all air carriers and some commuters must meet; (3) some air taxis operators' financial distress and poor compliance attitude contributed to safety violations; (4) FAA does not know if inspectors carry out inspection duties or if airlines take corrective action on identified safety problems; (5) FAA has taken such steps to improve its inspection program as increasing the number of inspectors and developing guidance to ensure consistency of inspections by distinct offices, but it has not corrected fundamental problems with its program; and (6) FAA cannot effectively manage its inspection program, because it has not determined whether program priorities were achieved, its management system for inspections contains incomplete and inaccurate data, inspectors do not evaluate the severity of safety problems, it has no system for targeting its inspection resources to airlines on the basis of safety performance, and it lacks a formal system to track key managers or owners of airlines that were subject to emergency revocation orders.

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