Senate Finds FAA Slow To Implement New Pilot Rules

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The FAA hasn't yet completed the changes that were mandated in a law passed two years ago that aimed to improve airline safety, according to testimony before a Senate committee on Tuesday. "Some critical deadlines have been missed," said John D. Rockefeller IV, chair of the committee. "Even with the issuance of new regulations, the FAA and the industry will have to work hard to make certain they are implemented properly." Inspector General Calvin Scovell's report to the committee says the FAA is on schedule to meet many of the requirements of the 2010 law, such as improving pilot rest requirements and establishing better processes for managing safety risks. However, the FAA has not met the timelines for creating mentoring programs, enhanced leadership training for captains, and higher minimum pilot qualifications.

The FAA also "faces challenges in establishing a pilot records database," Scovell said, which he said would provide an important component for enhancing the air carrier screening process for pilot applicants. The FAA also needs to provide additional guidance and assistance to industry -- especially smaller carriers -- to help them develop and manage new safety programs, he said. Margaret Gilligan, FAA associate administrator for aviation safety, told the committee the FAA has made "significant strides" toward accomplishing the safety act's objectives. All of the testimony is posted on the committee's website, along with an archived webcast of the hearing.