...Safety Programs Good, Could Be Better

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The GAO also took a look at the FAA's safety oversight system and, while it had to acknowledge the extraordinary safety record of U.S. commercial air operations, that doesn't mean there isn't room for a little tweaking. For instance, the GAO thinks the FAA spends too much time doing "traditional inspections" of airlines and not enough time looking for potential risk factors. The GAO also suggests beefed-up training for inspectors to ensure they understand the complex aircraft they are inspecting and, while it says the FAA training programs are generally good, there is a lack of evaluative standards to go with them. While those caught with deficiencies during FAA inspections might argue otherwise, the GAO says the FAA's enforcement program isn't as robust as it might be. For instance, the enforcement database isn't as useful as it might be because it's missing historical data on previous enforcement actions.