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Thursday
Oct132011

GAO: FAA Needs to Act to Improve Aviation Safety

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The number of runway incidents and controller errors are up at the nation’s airports, and the Federal Aviation Administration should do more to improve safety, according to a new report by the Government Accountability Office.  
 
The GAO says, although the FAA has met some of its goals in reducing runway incursions (where planes and vehicles get too close), the overall trend is on the upswing. In 2004 there were 11 incursions per million operations, and by 2010 that rate increased to 18 incursions per million operations (70 percent of the most serious incursions involve general aviation planes, not commercial jets).
 
Controller errors are up too -- errors involving close calls in the air nearly doubled from the first three months of 2008 to the same period in 2011.
 
The GAO says it’s hard to know if these are actual increases, or changes due to new and better reporting requirements. They say that’s part of the problem -- that the FAA can’t be sure if safety is getting worse, or not.
 
So what should the agency do? According to the GAO, the FAA needs to expand the incidents it keeps track of -- to include runway overruns, and mishaps in the ramp area. The FAA should also categorize all incidents according to how risky they were. The FAA does this now with some types of mishaps, but not all. The GAO also says the FAA needs to a better job sharing information about incidents.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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