FAA Must Improve Its Analysis of Safety Data

 - April 30, 2012, 4:35 PM
The FAA needs to improve its analysis of safety data, aviation watchdogs told Congress..

Two federal watchdogs told a congressional panel on April 25 that the FAA has improved its ability to collect aviation safety data, but lacks the analysis needed to enhance the safety of air traffic operations.

“The FAA is taking important steps to improve safety, such as implementing voluntary safety reporting for controllers, but the agency has not yet realized the full benefits of these efforts,” said Jeffrey Guzzetti, assistant DOT inspector general for aviation, in his testimony before the House of Representatives Aviation Subcommittee.

The FAA needs to ensure that the data are accurate, comprehensive and effectively analyzed, said Guzzetti, so that it can better identify baselines and safety trends. He said the FAA must also strengthen and make better use of its risk-based approach for oversight, to ensure that its limited inspector workforce is deployed where it is most needed. 

Dr. Gerald Dillingham, director of physical infrastructure issues for the Government Accountability Office (GAO), told the subcommittee that the FAA does not have a process to track or assess runway excursions.

The GAO previously had recommended that the FAA develop and implement plans to track and assess runway excursions, which it said can be as dangerous as runway incursions. But the GAO said it will be several years before the FAA has obtained enough detailed information about these incidents to assess risks. Read the GAO’s October 2011 recommendation that FAA explore fresh options to manage safety data.


I have not read the IG report, but I do know that the FAA has not had a real budget for the past four years because congressional inflighting about unions and slots failed to prouduce a funding reauthorization bill for the FAA. We are lucky they even started some of the safety programs they did while they did not have a budget. It takes planning and manpower to take data and turn it into something useful to improve safety. Planning and manpower take money, something congress would not give the FAA except for 60 or 90 days at a time. It is the equivlent of telling congress, I am not sure when were going to have an election but in 60 or 90 days we will tell you what day it is or tell you that you will have to wait 60 to 90 more days for an answer. How would a congressman plan his campaign if he did not know when the election was going to be. So Mr. IG, like I said I have not read the report and maybe you did put blame where blame is do, but I bet you just took the easy way out and blamed the FAA.

Blame Congress? The FAA is loaded with officials who have no background, training or experience in safety. To understand runway incursions, runway excursions we have to look also at technical data and new methodology in runway and air traffic control methods with the implementation of NextGen.

Most FAA officials are afraid to make decisions, opposing progress does not end FAA careers, so why stick your neck-out! Just think? Can you imagine an attorney general who has no legal training? Or a surgeon general who is not a medical doctor? Yet FAA administrators do not need any back ground in ATC or flying! Take a look at who leads ATC in the FAA - an attorney. The FAA is great in hiding safety issues and incidents, I was an FAA controller, I saw it happen.

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