The FAA aircraft owner/operator registry’s system remains outdated and the agency has yet to develop a detailed plan for modernization, according to the Department of Transportation Inspector General (DOT IG). The DOT IG further concluded in its fifth and latest audit of the FAA’s registry: “Real-time access requires a physical presence at the registry office.” What’s more, the audit results are basically the same as the DOT IG determined from its previous four audits conducted since December 2010.
While FAA is in the early stages of developing plans to modernize the registry, the agency “has not yet made key decisions,” such as which processes to automate, the audit concluded. Consequently, the cost and timeframes for registry modernization remain uncertain, which is concerning because the FAA is mandated by law to complete registry upgrades by October 2021.
In September 2017 a special report published in The Boston Globe slammed the FAA for its alleged failure to properly monitor and keep current its general aviation aircraft and pilot registration records. As a result, the article concluded, “A web of secrecy surrounds thousands of planes, making it nearly impossible to identify a plane’s real owners and hold them accountable.”
Although the audit did not refer to the newspaper article, it nevertheless found that the FAA relies on a “risk assessment” to guide where it focuses its surveillance, and automation could allow the agency to better identify “fraudulent or incorrect submissions.”
The FAA concurred with the audit’s four recommendations: develop and implement a timeline for making key decisions regarding registry electronic services; define what desired capabilities are technologically feasible within the registry’s timeframes; develop and implement a procedure to obtain feedback on the registry’s electronic services; and develop and implement a plan for maintaining real-time access to aircraft registration data.