FAA’s Financial Constraints And Certification Backlog

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The FAA’s processes combined with financial constraints have created a bottleneck that has held up roughly 1,000 certifications, industry representatives told a House aviation subcommittee last month — and it could get worse, they said. “In the past year alone, the certification office lost resources due to the sequester, instituted a hiring freeze, and had staff furloughed for more than two weeks due to the government shutdown,” vice president of civil aviation at the Aerospace Industries Association, Ali Bahrami, said. Bahrami warned too that the industry “continues to grow,” and existing budget challenges make the FAA’s ability to keep up with the industry, “not in the realm of possibilities.” There may be regulatory changes coming that will help, but the financial challenges remain.

FAA Administrator Michael Huerta recently noted the FAA’s budget constraints and suggested changes in the agency may be necessary. “I think we need to ask ourselves to ask you — our stakeholders — whether we really want to and need to do everything the way we’ve always done it,” Huerta last month told the Washington Aero Club. Revisions to the FAA’s regulatory structure required by yet to be signed legislation is specifically intended to streamline the certification process, but not sooner than Dec. 15, 2015, the deadline set by the legislation’s current language. The bill has been approved by the Senate and awaits further action by the House before moving to the president to be signed into law. Meanwhile, the FAA’s current system for approving new technology has drawn criticism from the assistant inspector general for aviation audits, Jeffrey Guzzetti. According to Guzzetti, the FAA presently “lacks an effective method to prioritize new certifications.” In practice, those methods left new operators, aircraft, and repair stations waiting — 130 of them for more than three years, he said.