GAO Finds FAA Airport Oversight Needs Work

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The FAA needs to do more to ensure safety on the surface at airports around the country, according to a report issued this week by the Government Accountability Office. The agency should develop and implement plans to track and assess runway excursions and extend its oversight to ramp safety, the GAO said. Also, the report noted that the number of reported errors by air traffic controllers has nearly doubled from 2008 to 2011. While much of that increase may be attributed to changes in reporting procedures, the GAO said, the trends may also indicate an increase in the "actual occurrence of incidents." NATCA President Paul Rinaldi on Thursday issued a statement noting that, "The most important piece of the GAO study is this: the 'FAA has taken several steps to further improve safety at and around airports.' We take this report very seriously, and we are working every day to ensure Americans' safety in the skies."

The FAA issued a statement saying it is "committed to ensuring the safety of our aviation system." Over the past several years, the FAA has transitioned to a non-punitive error-reporting system at its air traffic facilities, the statement said. "This cultural change in safety reporting has produced a wealth of information to help the FAA identify potential risks in the system and make corrections. As a result of this culture change, the FAA expected to see an increase in reported operational errors. More information will help us find problems and take action before an accident happens, which will help us build an even safer aviation system."