GAO Report sheds some light on the specific FAA certification problems

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The Transportation & Infrastructure Committee held a hearing last week on the subject of the FAA’s efforts to improve their certification process. The main focus of the testimony from/questioning of Boeing, Duncan Aviation, FAA, NTSB and the Government Accountability Office was broad in scope. Dr. Dillingham mentioned and reviewed at a high level the analysis of the FAA in improving FAA certification criteria/practices, establishing consistency among all of the FAA offices in interpreting the FARs and creating comparable standards/procedure with foreign civil aviation authority.

The below reporter got the full text of the GAO report and issued the following report card:

· To fix six certification process problems, there are

o Twelve initiatives and

o Only six which have been completed

· To address consistent interpretations of regulations throughout the FAA, the actions are as follows:

o One project was dropped

o One was completed in 2013

o Four are scheduled for completion in July, 2015

· To improve consistency of foreign CAAs in their handling of the US certification requests, the GAO made the following comments from U.S. companies stated:

o That the FAA

§ delayed in the facilitation process ,

§ Inadequate FAA staffing to support the foreign application process ,

§ FAA staff frequently knowledgeable about some of the foreign approval problems,

§ Lack of specificity and flexibility in some of the FAA’s BASAs,

§ foreign civil aviation authorities and the FAA seemingly do not discuss the points of contention

§ Fees collected by foreign CAAs in excess of any reasonable costs

These are not insubstantial issues, but query how these projects compare to the total list of priority Aviation Safety project? Are these more or less urgent than the many Congressionally mandated changes or the projects which FAA executives are of the opinion that are critical to safety?

There are also debates

  • whether the FAA has adequate personnel resources,
  • whether they are overstaffed (perhaps not in the Certification offices, but on a macro level), or
  • whether senior management is able to or can manage its staff (the creation of whistleblower protections has created patterns of push back to direction).

Congress might initiate a technical, third party review to answer those questions about the appropriate level of certification experts.

The hearing testimony asserted that foreign CAAs demand technical information which do not necessarily relate to “airworthiness” issues. That problem is supported by the GAO report. The T&I Committee Members seemed to pick up on that theme. How to fashion statutory language to address this nettlesome negotiation conflict is a question which the Chairman may ask his able counsel to explore.

The GAO report added definitive dimensions to internal and external elements of certification which Congress should consider in its review of the FAA’s statute reauthorization.

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