FAA failing to keep airport terminal safety incidents grounded, GAO reports

Despite new Federal Aviation Administration precautions, the rate of safety-related incidents in and around airport terminals has risen since fiscal 2004, the Government Accountability Office said in a new report.

In a study to measure the effectiveness of FAA's initiatives to curb terminal area incursions, GAO found that the rate of incidents increased from 11 per million operations in fiscal 2004 to 18 per million in fiscal 2010. Within this statistic, however, the total number of incidents related to foreign objects on a runway, called "runway incursions," has dropped since fiscal 2008.

Additionally, both the rate and total number of errors caused by air traffic controllers have increased considerably during the past few years, from around 200 mistakes in the first quarter of fiscal 2008 to nearly 400 in the second quarter of fiscal 2011. GAO reported that FAA has not met its related performance goals, and has not made comprehensive data available for some of the reported incidents.

FAA oversight in the terminal area applies only to certain categories of incidents, such as runway incursions. For instance, the agency does not oversee runway overruns, when a plane remains on the runway too long.

Among the safety initiatives FAA has undertaken is the Air Traffic Safety Action Program, which allows air traffic controllers to escape punishment for their mistakes if they voluntarily disclose them. GAO noted that this program had the potential to make data less comprehensive, as some serious incidents were reported only through the initiative and did not get entered into the official database for logging errors. FAA also is implementing new technology that will automatically detect errors in the terminal system instead of relying on controllers and their supervisors.

In the report, GAO recommended FAA extend oversight of terminal area safety to include runway overruns and ramp areas, develop risk-based measures for runway safety incidents and improve the methods for sharing information on incidents. The Transportation Department, which houses FAA, agreed to consider the recommendations.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

    Download
  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

    Download
  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

    Download
  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

    Download
  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.