U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary E. Peters Announces New Steps to Improve FAA's Aviation Safety Program

An independent review team provides 13 recommended improvements to FAA safety programs.

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary E. Peters today directed the Federal Aviation Administration to implement 13 new safety recommendations from an independent review team tasked with reviewing the current U.S. aviation safety system.

“The mark of an effective safety system is its ability to constantly improve and adapt. Today, the Independent Review Team has delivered a blueprint that will assure continued safe skies ahead for America,” Secretary Peters said.

The Secretary said the team’s report confirms the basic approach to aviation safety in the United States has generated unprecedented results, but that there are ways to make the system even safer. She said the 13 recommendations in the report “will improve both the intensity and the integrity of the FAA’s safety program,” and that the agency will begin implementing the recommendations immediately.

A key recommendation by the review team, Secretary Peters committed that the FAA will have guidance in place by the end of the year to ensure that airworthiness directives and their deadlines are fully understood by all appropriate FAA officials and airlines.

Another recommendation called for more rigorous and systematic oversight of the FAA’s voluntary disclosure program. The Secretary noted that the FAA has changed its procedures to require senior managers to review voluntary disclosure reports. She said that moving forward, FAA also will implement use of a new automated data system to help track and ensure compliance.

The Independent Review Team also recommended new safeguards against FAA personnel developing “overly cozy” relationships with the airlines they regulate through regular audits of field offices where the managerial team has been in place for more than three years. “The intent is clear: make sure everyone understands that the only customer that matters in the end is the flying public,” Secretary Peters said.

Consistent with recommendations to improve the FAA’s safety culture, the Secretary also charged the agency with developing, and having underway within six months, a new training program for safety managers and inspectors.

By this time next year, the Secretary announced, the FAA will also have the results of the recommended study of the right balance between the time inspectors spend inputting and analyzing data and the time they spend in the field. “Understanding safety data is essential, but making sure it is accurate is vital,” the Secretary said.

Members of the Independent Review Team include Ambassador Edward W. Stimpson, who served as chairman; J. Randolph Babbitt; William O. McCabe; Malcolm K. Sparrow; and the Hon. Carl W. Vogt.

The access the Independent Review Team’s full report, go to www.dot.gov/affairs/IRT_Report.pdf.

The Independent Review Team’s 13 Aviation Safety Recommendations

Recommendation 1: The FAA should retain the right to ground any plane not in compliance with an applicable AD. Inspectors should not be required or expected to conduct any type of risk-assessment before taking action on AD non-compliance.

ACCEPTED – FAA’s ongoing review of AD compliance will address inspector requirements and expectations. The full AD review program will be implemented by December 30, 2008.

Recommendation 2: The FAA should provide timely information about new AD requirements, in advance of compliance dates, to all relevant FAA field offices. Those offices should then be responsive to any carrier that requests assistance in the form of progress-towards-compliance audits or reviews, in advance of the AD compliance dates.

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