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GAO discussed the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) aircraft certification program, focusing on: (1) long-standing problems affecting the certification program; (2) FAA ability to meet new technology challenges; and (3) FAA actions to strengthen the certification program. GAO noted that: (1) although the current aircraft certification process is viewed as safe, the extent of FAA participation in this process is questionable; (2) aircraft manufacturers' commitment to safety and technical expertise have kept the number of design-related safety problems at a minimum; (3) FAA cannot effectively oversee the certification process because its certification staff has limited technical, has a high turnover rate, and have not been provided with sufficient guidance, technical assistance, or training; (4) although FAA plans to improve its training and staff retention programs, these programs may not be adequate to overcome future technical challenges and current training and staff limitations; and (5) FAA needs to better define its role in the certification process, improve its use of in-house experts, establish specific training requirements, and keep its training programs as current as possible to meet new technology challenges.

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