Aviation Safety: FAA Management Practices for Technical Training Mostly Effective; Further Actions Could Enhance Results

One key way that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) makes air travel safer is to inspect the manufacture, operation, and maintenance of aircraft that fly in the United States. To better direct its resources, FAA is shifting from an inspection process that relied on spot-checks of compliance with regulations to one that evaluates operating procedures and analyzes inspection data to identify areas that pose the most risk to safety (called system safety). While FAA believes the new approach requires some technical knowledge of aircraft, Congress and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) have long-standing concerns over whether FAA inspectors have enough technical knowledge to effectively identify risks. GAO reviewed the extent that FAA follows effective management practices in ensuring that inspectors receive up-to-date technical training. In addition, GAO is reporting on technical training that the aviation industry provides to FAA. For its technical training, FAA follows many of the effective management practices for training that GAO has advocated and is improving its efforts in others. In planning, FAA has linked technical training efforts to its goal of safer air travel and has identified technical proficiencies needed to improve safety inspectors’ performance in meeting this goal. It plans to better relate training to job tasks and is in the early stages of developing an approach to set priorities for new courses and course revisions. In developing technical courses, FAA has a structured process aimed at ensuring that courses meet performance objectives. It allows inspectors and others to identify the need for new training courses and to aid in developing courses. FAA is developing an initiative to systematically identify specific technical competencies and training requirements for inspectors. In delivering courses, FAA offers a wide array of technical courses from which inspectors can select to meet job needs. From GAO’s survey of FAA’s inspectors, GAO estimates that only about half think that they have the technical knowledge needed for their jobs. FAA officials told GAO that inspectors’ negative views stem from their wanting to acquire proficiencies that are not as crucial in a system safety environment. GAO also estimates that 28 percent of inspectors believe that they get the technical training that they request. However, FAA’s records show that FAA approves about 90 percent of these requests, and inspectors are making good progress in receiving training. Over half of the inspectors have completed at least 75 percent of technical training that FAA considers essential. In evaluating courses, FAA continuously assesses technical training through end-of-course evaluations and surveys of inspectors and supervisors. FAA is developing an approach to measure the impact of training on FAA’s mission goals, such as reducing accidents. This is a difficult task. Within the context of an overall system safety approach, GAO recommends that FAA take several actions, including systematically assessing inspectors’ technical training needs.


  • English

Media Info

  • Media Type: Web
  • Features: Appendices; Figures; Tables;
  • Pagination: 92p

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01004498
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Report/Paper Numbers: GAO-05-728
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Sep 26 2005 4:34PM