DOT IG: FAA Needs Better Safety Data Sources

 - April 22, 2013, 2:50 PM

Although the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of the Inspector General (IG) believes the FAA has made progress on safety issues, it says the agency must expand and enhance the reliability of its key data sources. A DOT report issued last week says, for example, that the FAA faces challenges with establishing an effective risk-based oversight system for repair stations and aircraft manufacturers.

To target its surveillance to the highest-risk areas, the FAA needs to determine more accurately the number of inspectors it needs and where to place them, and ensure risk assessments are performed.

Also, despite progress on implementing some elements of the Airline Safety and FAA Extension Act of 2010, the FAA continues to be challenged with meeting provisions for improved pilot training, qualification and screening requirements, as well as advancing safety initiatives at smaller carriers. The IG report points to the air traffic safety analysis program (Atsap) as another example. Atsap is a controller-focused version of the more general Aviation Safety Reporting System reports pilots use. By the end of last year, the Atsap program had gathered 58,000 reports system-wide. But the agency’s data analysis provided answers that were too general, according to the IG, to be of much use to identify any causes, much less develop specific actions to mitigate the problems identified.