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New report delivers black eye to FAA on various issues

April 18, 2013, Washington, D.C. - A new report from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) inspector general on April 16 delivered a black eye to the FAA for missing new rule deadlines and a troubling increase in close calls for airplanes on the ground, even as it acknowledged air travel was in its safest-ever period.


April 18, 2013
Carey Fredericks

Some of the sharpest criticisms from the report, issued in conjunction with a Senate Commerce Committee hearing, took aim at several rulemakings — many of them mandated by Congress — that have gotten bogged down at FAA.

The report said the FAA has made “important progress” in meeting some key elements Congress ordered up, such as a landmark rule changing pilot rest requirements.

But the report said the FAA is significantly delayed on other key rules, including one that would tighten training standards for commercial airline pilots. At present, the FAA is scheduled to issue that rule in August, a year late.

The report also knocks the FAA for being nearly two years late in meeting a timeline for proposing a rule requiring air carriers to establish pilot mentoring practices.

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There are also issues with a rule that mandates the creation of a database of pilot employment and testing records, which employers would be required to check prior to hiring a new pilot.

The FAA has begun developing the database, but the law did not specify a date for the agency to complete the work, and the report notes that “the FAA has yet to make long-term implementation decisions” related to the issue.

Another section says the FAA needs to step up mitigating wildlife hazards near airports. One such incident caused the “Miracle on the Hudson” airplane to ditch in the Hudson River shortly following takeoff after it flew into a flock of geese.

The report also sounds a cautionary note about whether the national airspace is ready to handle the onslaught of unmanned aerial vehicles. By FAA estimates, there will be some 10,000 operating inside U.S. borders in the next five years. The concern noted by the report is that these drones have “limited ability to detect, sense, and avoid other air traffic.”