GAO Criticizes FAA Designee Program

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The FAA should do a better job monitoring designated flight-test examiners, inspectors, and doctors who give FAA medical exams to pilots, according to a report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released Tuesday. The GAO, displaying a remarkable grasp of the obvious, said the FAA is inconsistent in the way it oversees the 13,400 individuals and 180 organizations who perform crucial safety functions, but found no systematic safety problems. Incomplete databases, heavy workloads and inadequate training for FAA staff who monitor the designees were blamed for the inadequacies. One way for the FAA to improve would be for the agency to charge application and renewal fees to designees to help offset the cost of administering these programs, the GAO said, however, FAA is prohibited from imposing new user fees unless they are specifically authorized by law.

Designees perform a valuable function for FAA and the aviation industry, the GAO said, enabling FAA to leverage its staff resources and helping industry obtain FAA-issued certificates in a timely manner. By using designees, however, FAA places great trust in their integrity and honesty; therefore, periodic validation and consistent oversight is needed, the GAO said. U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio, ranking Democrat on the House Aviation Subcommittee, requested the study last year. He said on Tuesday the report shows that oversight of the designee program is "toothless and ineffective." FAA spokesman Greg Martin told the Associated Press the agency is considering the GAO's recommendations, which "will make a strong program stronger."